So many people seem to be falling in love with this book, but I can’t help but wonder if it is due in part to a great publicity campaign, of if I’m just really missing out on something. I was not enthralled with this book.
The biggest problem that I have with this book is that it lacks a true focus. Titled, Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, it is not unreasonable to expect that author H.P. Wood is writing about a ‘thing’ – a cabinet – or at least that it would play a major part in the book. But the book is about a plague that hit Coney Island around the turn of the 20th century (an imaginary plague … no such plague struck that era). Or is it about the plague? Maybe it’s really about ‘The Unusuals’ – a group of misfit people living on Coney Island and looking after one another. Or maybe it’s about Kitty Hayward and her mother (and dead brother) who arrive on a ship from Africa to have to find their way in the strange new world? It could be about all of these things (and it is), but suddenly we have a story that is trying to tell too many stories, with too many characters.
I liked the The Unusuals. I don’t mind admitting that this is what I was expecting … a story about a group of circus oddities. Look at the title. Look at the cover art. I know … don’t judge a book by its cover. But we are drawn to books for a variety of reasons. Titles and covers are a part of that, especially when an author is new to the potential reader.
So…while I recognize that a lot of my problem with this book is with my expectations (and that the book was not ‘about’ what I was expecting it to be about), that is over-come-able. A strong character or story-line can still draw me into a story. That didn’t happen here. Because of the plethora of characters, no one stood out as the central character and I was never really behind anyone. I started out eager to follow Kitty, but she never became a central figure that I cared about.
I just can’t recommend this book.
Looking for a good book? Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, by H. P. Wood, captured my curiosity but never satisfied it.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet
author: H. P. Wood
publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
paperback, 368 pages