Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

marinaMarina. The simple book title reminds me of one of my favourite classics, Rebecca. However, in no way are these two books similar, apart from both of them being gothic tales. Marina is a gothic tale, but unlike Rebecca, it has elements of horror in it. I would call it a gothic horror. Before you decide to stop reading, I promise that until Zafón releases a fourth installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten books series, this is my last Zafón review…

The story plays off in the 1980’s and starts off where Oscar Drai, a 15 year old boy vanishes from his boarding school – for seven days. Where was he? The story actually starts at the end, and what happened prior to his disappearance is the story of how Oscar met Marina, a story centered around life, love and death. The officer who found him at the train station said “People only disappear when they have somewhere to go” and Oscar had somewhere he needed to be…

Oscar loved to take strolls after school and one such afternoon he came across a dilapidated mansion. Thinking it was abandoned, Oscar sneaked around the property, but then he heard opera music coming from inside the house and he decided to go in.  He later fled out of the house with a pocket watch in his hand and ran back to the boarding school where he arrived gasping for breath and told his best friend what happened.

This is almost how I imagined the house to look like  photo credit
This is almost how I imagined the house to look like
photo credit

He decides to return the pocket watch and at this point I agreed with his friend who though him crazy. Why go back to that house!? He met Marina that day, as well as her father German, who is a portrait painter.  The way the house and its surroundings are described, it sure makes you feel that there is something macabre going on, but there isn’t. In fact, that day Oscar met the two people who would soon become his family.

One day, Marina took him to the cemetery to show him something weird: That on the fourth Sunday of every month, a woman hooded in black, comes to the cemetery to visit an unmarked grave and leaves behind a single rose. Curiosity got the better of the two and they decide to follow this woman, who led them into a green house where weird things started to happen. They came across a creepy collection of mechanical toys and an old photograph album that contained photos of nightmarish creatures – deformed humans, “God’s forgotten children”, freaks of nature…

However, that is not the worst. What follows is the story of the man who I can only describe as the woman in black’s object of devotion. We learn how the mechanical creatures that Oscar and Marina had found in the greenhouse came about being and why they take on a life of their own. Although this was in essence a story about life, love and death, as I’ve mentioned above, it is also a story about madness. This novel, I found to be a dark and twisted gothic tale and yet I enjoyed it! It had me in suspense and dread, and yet I found it to be a page-turner. I had to force myself one evening to stop reading, or else I would have nightmares…

Don’t let that put you off though, because I’m a big chicken and it doesn’t take much to scare me. There are other parts of the story, about Marina and German (one of the main reasons for Oscar’s disappearance), that I left out purposely, because I think this is a book that you should consider reading! Zafon’s descriptions of the scenes are frightening and obviously well-done, as is his description of the setting – Barcelona, Spain.  In his previous 3 YA novels he took us to an unnamed location in The Prince of Mist, to India in The Midnight Palace and to France in The Watcher in the Shadows, but in Marina he takes his YA readers to his beloved Barcelona in the 1980s: The setting and town we came to love in The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven.  Zafon mentions in his preface that Marina is his favourite and it is my favourite too, atleast from his YA fiction novels!

Some memorable quotes:

“We are doomed to remember what never really happened”

“Although I could hear the echo of my footsteps, I could have sworn I was walking a few centimeters above the ground”

“Patience is the mother of all virtues and the godmother of madness”

“The public will always choose a warmed-up lie over the cold truth”

“Time does to the body what stupidity does to the soul”

“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”

Image source

  • Another book I obviously have to read. Zafon is getting rich from us 😉 Great review

    • I’m a die-hard fan of his, but obviously I prefer the adult fiction 😉
      I like this one the best, although I didn’t see anything that says this one is indeed YA fiction. You should totally read this one, Ciska. It’s creepy… Do you like creepy?

  • Wow this sounds amazing. I am new to Zafón!!! Will have to check him out!

  • Aaah the book I technically read, due to me hounding you for info. I enjoyed all the bits that we “discussed” but would like to read the entire book.

    • You will, believe me, you will 🙂

  • This sounds amazing and spooky and perfect to read on a stormy fall night. I think I’m going to have to pick this up.

    • You are right, perfect for a stormy night read, however I was reading it on such a night and then I stopped 🙂 Hope you will like it!

  • I like stories that start at the end and make it interesting enough to want to find out why the ending is what it is.

    • Exactly why I love books that starts at the end!

  • Sounds wonderful! I will have to look for it-I have been wanting to read more from this author!

    • Thanks, Kerri. This one was my favourite from his YA fiction, if you’re a fan of his adult books, you should totally consider reading one of them. I know you said you wont be reading The Prince of Mist because of the clowns, so maybe you can try one of the other 3 🙂

  • “Although I could hear the echo of my footsteps, I could have sworn I was walking a few centimeters above the ground” – That quote it beautiful! It brings many different things to mind, mainly the fantasy/reality types of worlds that Zafon enjoys writing about.

    • That is one of the first quotes I marked! Love it.

  • I did not know this one even existed

    • It was released in English last month only 🙂

  • Eeep! I’m reading Rebecca this month! It makes me happy to know it’s one of your favorites!

    • I really hope you enjoy it Katie! Rebecca is due for a re-read from me in 2014.

  • Excellent, well-written review . “God’s forgotten children” and all the rest got me spooked already since I’m a total chicken, but will add this to my “to-read” list.

    • Thanks! I’m a big whimp, but I read it, so you should be okay 🙂 Hope you enjoy it!

  • Jan

    I’ve picked this book up and put it back down so many times because I just couldn’t make my mind up about it. I did the same with The Book Thief which became an all time favourite so keeping that in mind and your review, maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and give this one a shot too! 🙂

    • I hope that this time you will finish it. It’s a bit creepy 😉
      PS: I read a sample of The Book Thief and didn’t like it, yet I’ve read so many raving reviews. I might give it another chance.

      • I’ll give Marina another chance, you give The Book Thief another chance and then we can report back! 🙂

  • I didn’t fully read your review because I really want to read this title–yay that it’s finally being released in English! I’ve oggled over the Italian edition of this book for years, lol, debating whether to just read it in another language–but glad to hear that you enjoyed it 🙂 Totally looking forward to this when it comes out here

    • I hope you will enjoy it Lianne! You can always try to buy the Kindle book – I had it on preorder 🙂 It’s not out in my country yet either, but Zafon is an author who is always on preorder….

      • Thanks! 🙂 Oh yeah, definitely, Zafon is definitely one of the few authors who are always immediately on the pre-order list 😀

        • Good to know I’m not the only crazy one! 😉

  • I’ve not read any Zafon, although I know I really need to. I’m going to start with Shadow of the Wind.

    • That is a good book to start with, Sam 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Isi

    This is his YA novel I want to read most, but I promise you that yours is the first review I read of this novel (it’s weird that the first review you read of a Spanish book is in English hehehe).
    I’m also a big chicken, but well, the gothic has something that attracts you and makes you want to give it a try. I like your cover, with the rose (I suppose that is the rose of the woman in the graveyard), because the Spanish cover actually doesn’t say anything to me.
    Well, so there are not books left by Zafón for you to read, what are you going to do? 😛

    • Yes, there’s no more Zafón books for me to read, unfortunately and you laugh about it 😉

      Isi, I’m sure you are not such a big whimp like I am. I hope that you will read this, because you’ve been saying this for a while 😀 The cover is nice yes, I like it more than the other covers that’s available for this title.

  • I haven’t read this book of Zafon’s, but I LOVE his books especially SHADOW OF THE WIND.

    BEAUTIFUL BLOG….found you on another blog and wanted to stop by. So glad I did.

    Have a great week. Going to follow you.

    Silver’s Reviews
    My Blog

    • Thank you for stopping by, Elizabeth and also thanks for following. The Shadow of the Wind is a personal favourite of mine too!

  • Pingback: Here’s what you should read next | {The Book Musings}()

  • This is TOTALLY up my alley, I’m absolutely going to check it out!

  • Pingback: November Finds | Lipsyy Lost & Found()

  • I’m currently reading prisoner of heaven. now I’ve come across reviews for Marina. I dont get why mostly female bloggers are reviewing it. i get its a young adult book…but is it a young female adult book?

    • Have you read the first two books in the series before you started with Prisoner of Heaven? Anyone can read Marina or any other book. It’s not about which books are for females or males. A reader is a reader, who can choose which books he/she wants to read!

      • camrin Ricardo Valentino Platyes

        Yeah, I read angels game first then shadow of the wind. I don’t think they have to be read chronologically to be honest. Really enjoyed angels game that’s why I moved on to shadow, which is honestly my favourite book of all time.the message of facing your inner demons before you turn into the very demon you loath is so powerful. I’ve been careful not to read other people’s views just incase it takes away from what I took away from the book. I still would like a leather bound copy just for the sake of it

        • The Shadow of the Wind is my favourite book too! I read the books in the order they came out. I think that it’s fine if you read The Angel’s Game before The Shadow of the Wind, but I do think that The Prisoner of Heaven must be read AFTER The Shadow of the Wind, because it has the same characters, and Daniel and Fermin’s lovestories are explained in Shadow, so then you would understand their story more

  • Ahhh I just read and reviewed this book too. Happy to have found another Zafon fan 🙂 I’ve only read the Shadow series (while in Barca no less!) and Marina. Looking forward to digging into the rest.

  • AP Spanish Kid

    Hey, I’m writing an essay on some of the characters, can you give me a full character list and when they’re introduced? I know about the important ones like Kolvenik and Oscar and Marina and German, but I need to know like all of them

    • Hi! I read this more than a year ago, I’m afraid I don’t remember all of the characters anymore. I basically only remember the main characters 🙁