Friday 3 January 2014

Book review : Marina - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

When I plucked Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Marina from my bookshelf, I wasn't sure what to expect. The red rose and butterflies on the cover image suggest romance and fragility but a closer look reveals a darker, more sinister undercurrent. This is actually a very good summary of the book itself.

The novel starts with a slightly strange preface which throws the reader off-kilter, not really knowing what they are reading. The narrator explains that when he was a teenager at boarding school, he mysteriously disappeared for a week, leaving everyone frantically searching for him, and then when he resurfaced, he lied to everyone - teachers, counsellors and child psychologists - about where he had been. The opening paragraph also adds to the mystique and confusion - "Marina once told me that we only remember what never really happened. It would take me a lifetime to understand what those words meant. But I suppose I'd better start at the beginning, which in this case is the end." OK, so what we're reading may be a factual recollection or a totally invented fantasy. Even at the very end of the story, I wasn't really sure.

The story itself reminded me very much of Frankenstein and although it is set in 1980 in Barcelona, the gothic atmosphere and frequent flashbacks to the city in earlier decades made me feel that we were much further back in time. Oscar, feeling rather bored at his school, takes to roaming the hidden corners of Barcelona and stumbles across a dilapidated house which turns out to be inhabited by an old man, German Blau, and his daughter Marina. Striking up a friendship, Marina leads Oscar to a secret cemetery hidden in the heart of Barcelona's old district where they witness a strange woman in black visiting a grave. Curiosity killed the cat and when the hapless pair decide to follow the mysterious widow, it almost kills them too as they are taken on a horrific and epic journey to the very entrails of the city, uncovering the darkest secrets of the bustling city's hidden world and horrific past.

It's a classic gothic novel, full of monstrous creatures and rundown mansions, but it's also a poignant story of love and could be seen as a coming-of-age story. It's an enjoyable read suited to anyone from teens right up to adults, and many of the passages will stay with me for a long time, even if the end still left me wondering exactly what I had just read ! 

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £12.99

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (26 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297856472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297856474
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 14 x 2.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Children's book review : Dead Man's Cove (A Laura Marlin Mystery) - Lauren St John


  1. This book sounds great, I've read other books by the author but hadn't heard of this one. I love your whole blog, loads of interesting information. X


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