BOOK: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet
AUTHOR: H.P. Wood
MY RATING: ★ ★ (2/5)
May 1904. Coney Island’s newest amusement park, Dreamland, has just opened. Its many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.
Kitty Hayward and her mother arrive by steamer from South Africa. When Kitty’s mother takes ill, the hotel doctor sends Kitty to Manhattan to fetch some special medicine. But when she returns, Kitty’s mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty she is at the wrong hotel. The doctor says he’s never seen her although, she notices, he is unable to look her in the eye.
Alone in a strange country, Kitty meets the denizens of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. A relic of a darker, dirtier era, Magruder’s is home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist. Magruder’s Unusuals take Kitty under their wing and resolve to find out what happened to her mother.
But as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine. The gang at Magruder’s finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort town is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.
I received an advanced reading copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.
There’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on about Magruder’s that just didn’t enchant me in the way I had hoped it would.
Our story takes place on Coney Island in the 1900’s, the island is bustling with the oddities that come from carnivals and freakshows. Hidden on one of the blocks lies Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of the extraordinary, where for mere pennies you can see wonders like the boxing kangaroo.
Wood tackles issues like segregation, discrimination, sexism, gender roles, racism, and sexuality – all very scandalous topics for 1904.
This book is filled with an abundance of unique characters who rally together when the threat of a new plague overruns the city.
Overall this book was well written. If I had been more invested in the story itself, I likely would have been drawn right into this book. The language alone will hook you. Its what kept me wanting to finish the book when halfway through I put it down and debated not picking it back up again.