The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Is there such a thing as Brian Selznick addiction? Because OMG I totally have it. I devoured his two previous books in a mere afternoon apiece as they each came out. I’m just sad I forgot to put a hold on this when it was first released. I appreciate the way he merges simple charcoal-like sketches with a complex and layered story that helps us merge art and text. The Marvels is more of the same that I’ve come to expect. I can’t decide if I like it better than the other two previous novels, but I can tell you that it made me cry in a way the other two books had not. Unfortunately, I think talking about it is going to be too spoilery.
The Marvels begins on a ship. Billy Marvel is the sole survivor of a shipwreck with his dog. They find themselves in London at a theater, where they begin work. Then, a baby is left on the doorstep, and suddenly, Billy has a family. The story continues to the legacy of the Marvels, up to five generations, and then it abruptly shifts from image to text with the story of Joseph in 1990. Having run away from his boarding school, Joseph finds his uncle and steps back in time to a world and story he never knew existed.
What I like most about Selznick is that he is subtle. The most rewarding emotional payoffs occur slowly and then all at once. The ending made me cry, but it was a good cry. There are several pieces that are set into place, but until you see them all, together, you don’t understand the significance of them at once. This is, to me, one of Selznick’s best stories, because it examines the power of story itself and shows us where stories come from, both in our lives and our imaginations. A must-read.