I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H. P. Wood
Published by Sourcebooks on June 1st 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
A hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled ménage of circus freaks.
Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island's newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty's mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England. The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty's new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island...or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.
With shades of Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where "normal" is the exception to the rule.
As soon as I saw the cover, I just knew I’d want to read H.P. Wood’s Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. This turn-of-the-century tale takes place on Coney Island, and is told from the point of view of many of the characters. One of the main characters, Kitty Hayward, is an English girl who finds herself abandoned on the pier. With no money or prospects, she turns to a band of circus performers for help to find her missing mother. Filled with a diverse group of complex characters, this novel is part mystery / part critique of social classes of the early 20th century.
From the description of the novel, I thought (for some reason) that this would be more of a horror novel or thriller. It’s not. Instead, this is a historical fiction novel with loads of humor, mystery, and heart. Kitty and the strange cast of carnys that populate Coney Island are all interesting characters, and I thought Wood made them very complex and multi-dimensional. I was even invested in Kitty’s situation from the beginning, and hoped she’d find a pleasant resolution. However, what I think I enjoyed most about this novel was its unpredictability. This isn’t your usual HEA kind of story, and many unexpected things happen. This kept me on the edge of my seat.
Though I found Magruder’s to be an entertaining read, I will admit that it took me a while to really get into it. Part of this I think was all of the different POVs in the novel. Before I had a chance to get invested in a character, the POV would change to another one. I think I read about 100 pages before I really, truly got sucked into the story. Once I did, however, I was hooked. Part of my difficulty in getting into the novel may not just be due to the shifting POVs, but also due to my expectations of the novel. Thinking the story was a different genre may have confused my view of early events, thus making the novel difficult to get into. I would recommend this novel to fans of The Night Circus, or Water for Elephants.