September 25, 2014
Every novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon features dark mystery, gothic architecture, shadows of Barcelona, and a love of books, and his latest English release Marina adds to that teen romance and absolute horror. Set in the late 1970s, the year is later and the cast of characters is younger; Oscar Drai is a schoolboy falling in love for the first time, not just with a pretty girl but with her secrets, and the mystery that takes hold of the two of them. The couple follow the mystery — namely a woman dressed all in black with a black veil hiding her face — to the Sarria cemetery and spy on her as she grieves at a grave embossed with the symbol of a black butterfly, and for their curiosity, they are ensnared in an old unsolved case that’s coming back for vengeance.
Originally published in Spanish in 1999, Marina was translated this year by Lucia Graves, the translator for all of Zafon’s internationally acclaimed novels. Intended for a young adult audience, it’s a shorter read meant for one mesmerizing sitting. In this Zafon novel the love of stories and storytelling is embodied in Marina, the character of the tragic writer.
While not the darkest of Zafon’s works, Marina is probably the scariest; the theme of man playing god turns scary when a scientific attempt at immortality leads to animated corpses, violent and angry, and acting out the revenge of their master. More captivating is certainly Oscar’s relationship with Marina and her father Germán, a surrogate family for him and the first he has ever known, and Zafon’s classic uncovering of history and old wrongs that would have been better left in the past (except for the sake of our literary enjoyment.)