I enjoyed this book! Love Alice Hoffman's writing style: so vivid and sensate. Enjoyed the way she wove in the history of Coney Island - many layers - and studded her work with gems of wisdom. And of course, the basic story of two people who find themselves and each other in a setting of both visual beauty (nature photography) and visual anomaly.
She wove in a sub-theme around Jane Eyre, a favorite book of the Wolfman at the Museum, who after reading of the incarceration of the first Mrs. Rochester, decided to free himself from his own incarceration by his family in Virginia. He finds out that the world will not be kind to a 'wolfman' and that his family's hiding him away while caring for him with attention, books, nice food, providing a private domain of enjoyments for him was an act of love of their part. He was not unloved.
Mr. Rochester had the same motivation in hiding away his first wife, an untreated, undiagnosed schizophrenic before there was such a diagnosis. To read about the treatment of schizophrenics in his era, read Sebastian Faulks' novel "Human Traces" - it is an absolutely amazing book! Hoffman seems critical of Mr. Rochester's incarceration of his wife, which he claims he did out of love for her. As Faulks' book tells us, most schizophrenics were chained in outbuildings or kept in basements, dungeons, and yes, attics, completely ignored and barely fed. But Mrs. R. had a constant attendant, and Rochester contrasts his wife's situation to what it might have been in an asylum of the day. Read "Human Traces" if you want to form a more realistic idea of what that was like. (Happily, the book is about more than that, so I promise you it won't be a steady diet of misery.)
Also, Charlotte Bronte's sister Anne wrote a novel about the plight of a woman married to a debauched wealthy land-owning man. Apparently, as is often the case where there are great riches involved, there was a lot of debauchery among the upper classes of England during their imperial heyday. Families were impoverished by debauched males who gambled away the family fortune or spent it on entertainments and courtesans. There's quite a bit of good literature on that topic out there. So, Charlotte turns the tables here and asks the question, what about a debauched woman, who is also schizophrenic - what is the effect of such a person on a young unformed male just starting out on his adventure of life. Rochester expresses regrets over his 'lost innocence' that Jane resonates with. They are two good people who find each other and who must reach across a cultural and social abyss to meet. They meet as 'souls' - as 'soul mates.' Yes, there is a Deus ex Machina but it was the first, not a typical Gothic Romance - no, actually, the very first one that all the others imitated.
I'd like to write more about what Jane Eyre meant to me. Will try to get back to this soon.