“Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet” by H.P. Wood

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet

(Author: H.P. Wood) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


I had a rather pessimistic approach to this book, because I believed, and still do, that the world has had just about enough carnival books, movies and shows. I, personally, have read and watched too many to count, some of which so bad and boring that I don’t even want to remember them.

Luckily, even though they sell it as such, Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is not a carnival book. There are a number of strange people, who consider themselves separate from the normal ones, in this book, but they are not the typical cliches: bearded lady, strongman, giant, dwarf and a pretty main heroine who feeds the animals a.k.a. the usual cliche.

This was the first thing I liked about Magruder’s. They break stereotypes in the genre and have a balanced mix of Unusuals and Dozens(the book slang for the weirdos and the mundanes). I liked following the cooperation between the different people, instead of the black and white heroes vs villains routine that usually happens. Having an Uzbek leader of sorts was also fun. And, as my fate is, there were also Turkish characters, so… ha-ha. This was one of those times when the author likes to mix foreign languages, a thing I usually criticize, but this time they were actual foreigners mixing the English they more or less knew with their native tongues, so I am willing to take it easy on the book.

My favourite aspect of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, however, was the fact that it was not a struggle for a great love or “who will rule the circus” or whatever, but a story about the yellow fever. That was actually the first book that I read on this topic and it was both interesting and informative, even though it is fiction. I was curious to see how they quarantined everything off, how they reacted – a situation much closer to the present and therefore easier to analyze than, say, the Black death.

What I did not like was the fact that there were too many main characters so even though we were provided sufficient information about their personalities, we could not spend enough time in their private space to connect to them and care about them. I did not feel specific affection to anyone, including the child, which was obviously meant to play with reader’s feelings and make things more personal. I read the book with a detached interest but the good or the bad moments of the characters were just that, the moments of some random character that I will forget. It did not go beyond that and that really affected my attitude toward the book in general.


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