‘The Marvels’ – Brian Selznick

The Marvels

When I ordered this from my local library I really did not know what to expect. First impressions – and I’m being honest – were that it was VERY heavy, but that it looked beautiful with the gold trimmed pages and the intricate design on the front cover.

The story begins with almost 400 pages of pictures. They are wonderful illustrations, but it did make me nervous as it is so different to the usual thing I read.  However, from the opening pictures – where we see young Billy Marvel shipwrecked and his rescue – I was entranced. This is the kind of thing that you could return to time and time again, and not tire of looking for further details as you become more familiar with the story. Watching the history of The Marvels unfold before my eyes was intriguing, and I was rather sad when our story turned to 1990 and the prose section.

For those who admire the illustrations I can imagine this section – focusing on Joseph Jervis running away to London to visit his mysterious uncle – will be off putting. However, unravelling the mysteries of Albert’s story and the links to the earlier part of the book were immensely satisfying.

As soon as I finished this I felt I’d spent time with something truly wonderful. It was a real work of art, and I was most intrigued by the afterword, where the author reveals the source of this story. I’ve never heard of Dennis Severs before reading this, but I feel compelled to read more about his amazing home.

This didn’t make it onto the shortlist of the 2017 Carnegie Awards, but it is on the Greenway Awards shortlist and is a book that I can see finding itself a place on my bookshelf in the near future.