The sense of nostalgia in Zafon’s writing gets me every time. I meander over his words, going back to read them and they seriously make my heart melt. He is always a pleasure to read and I really really must say thanks again to my friend Neen for introducing me.
Marina promises to be a ‘Gothic tale for all ages’ and that sums this novel up so well.
I’d been wanting to read this for some time, as even the novelist himself admits ‘Of all the books I’ve published ever since I picked up this odd business of novelist trade back in prehistoric 1992, Marina remains one of my favorites.’
He goes on to say that ‘By then I had already published three novels for young adults but soon after embarking on Marina I knew that this would be the last I’d write in the genre. As the writing advanced, everything in the story began to acquire a shade of farewell, and by the time I’d finished it, I sensed that something inside me, something that even today I cannot explain, but that I still miss every single day, was forever left among its page’
The novel that came right after Marina was the Shadow of the Wind, and in some ways, they feel quite similar…almost as if the writing style, wit and humour, the innocence of youth are perfectly meshed with darker themes speckled with the wisdom that has you either reaching for a pen or tearing up. It’s almost as if the Shadow of the Wind series ‘graduates’ from the simpler Gothic premises of this book.
It’s a quick read, probably not as intricate or involved as the Shadow of the Wind series, but I’d say that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
The story is narrated by Oscar, a ‘fifteen-year-old boy languishing in a boarding school named after some half-forgotten saint’ who, tired of being cooped up all day, stumbles upon a sprawling but dilapidated mansion. What lies waiting inside is German, an ailing artist, Marina, his first true love and (of course!) a dark mystery waiting to be unraveled. The mystery comes by way of a somber ritual they observe while at the Sarria cemetery on a fateful day. What unravels takes them all around Barcelona and back again, with characters and a love story spanning 30 years.
Speaking of characters, I loved them all, especially the city of Barcelona itself, which is so rich with imagery and longing I imagined myself to be walking right beside Oscar and Marina the whole time. As expected in any Zafon book, the back story is always well refined, well thought out, with flawed yet relatable characters.. Lots of dimension and depth to each character, and even though I worked out the twist towards the end, it never really matters. The writing is THAT good you’ll be hooked!
Quotes of note (i.e the ones I go back to read and reread)
“Our body begins to destroy itself from the moment it is born. We are fragile. We’re creatures of passage. All that is left of us are our actions, the good or the evil we do to our fellow humans”
“We are doomed to remember what never really happened”
“Time does to the body what stupidity does to the soul”
I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes mystery with a touch of horror. It’s also a great teen read- mu ch more sophisticated and rich in it’s storytelling than anything else out there.