Friday, September 5, 2014

He just met a girl named Marina

Marina, the latest novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, was actually published in Spain before The Shadow of the Wind and other novels that have proven so popular in their English translations in the United States. Reading it one can see why this earlier story was not translated into English before now. While worth reading, Marina is just not up to the standard American readers have become used to.

Set in 1980 in Barcelona, the novel tells of a 15-year-old boy named Oscar stuck unhappily in a boarding school. Wandering the streets one day he meets a lovely girl named Marina and her father, a once great painter who gave up art after the death of his wife. Soon Oscar becomes so involved in their lives that his own life, his own family and his school shrink in importance.

All this is fascinating, but then it becomes fantastic as Oscar and Marina's adventures take them, quite literally, into the Barcelona underworld, where a tortured madman, like a 20th century Frankenstein, seeks to reanimate the dead. While all this seems far-fetched, the hardest thing for me to believe was how other characters, including a hardened former police officer, so quickly and seriously accept these two kids as if they were Sam Spade-like investigators, instead of sending them home to their parents.

Of course, all of Ruiz Zafon's novels have a bit of the gothic and the fantastic in them. That explains their appeal. Marina just seems like too much of a good thing.

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