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Staff blog

A Trip to the Museum

Museums collect, store, and preserve cultural objects.  Just as there are many types of books, there are many types of museums.  This week’s #FridayReads combine them both – books and museums!  Also, be sure to stop in to see our Station Eleven­-inspired Museum of Civilization for Shorewood Reads.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

At the Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island freak show and collection of curiosities, you can meet Wolfman, experience the beauty of Butterfly Girl, and watch Bird Woman fly.  The proprietor’s daughter, Coralie Sardie, happens to excel at swimming so she takes on the role of the Human Mermaid, captivating paying audiences with her elegance and grace.  At night, Coralie swims in the cold Atlantic Ocean or at the nearby Hudson River despite reports of sea monster sightings, and one night, she bumps into Eddie Cohen, a photographer who broke away from his Russian Orthodox roots.  The wheels are set in motion – Eddie and Coralie discover a mutual attraction to one another; Eddie photographs the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; and the two become preoccupied with a missing woman.  Strange yet sympathetic, Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things blends historical fiction with magical realism to tell an age-old love story that will transcend time.

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

Travel back to 1975 Istanbul, Turkey where two prominent and wealthy families come together through the engagement of Kemal and Sibel.  It’s a successful match until Kemal meets Fusun, a shop girl, while he is looking for an engagement gift for his fiancé.  Kemal and Fusun have a brief affair that has long-lasting effects on the couple.  At first, Kemal is torn between the dinners, parties, and clubs of the new Westernized city versus the traditional culture of Istanbul, and for eight years, Kemal visits Fusun and her family on a yearly basis.   Throughout the years, Kemel travels in film circles, seedy hotels, and sleazy bars collecting objects that chronicle his relationship with Fusun.  The objects represent anger, love, impatience, humiliation, and remorse all due to a broken heart of not being with the one he loves.  Exploring themes of east versus west, female identity, and collections and museums, Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk provides a masterful story that’s disturbingly romantic.

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