Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.
This book is absolutely amazing! Everything about it – from the illustrations, the plot, the characters and the details are just so intricate and create such a vivid story.
The Marvels is unique in that the story is told in two different forms of media. The first one is pencil sketches and the second one is prose. Each have their own distinctive story arc which is interwoven throughout the book. Despite the fact that it’s 665 pages long, much of the book is drawn so it’s a quick read. I managed to get through the first half in about twenty minutes so I think that’s saying something.
The first half of the book tells the story of a famous family throughout several generations, while the second half of the book follows Joseph, who has run away from school to live with the Uncle in London and tries to uncover his family’s secret. Although this book is categorised as a ‘children’s book’ it certainly doesn’t feel that way! There are so many little details, from references to famous authors like Shakespeare and Dickens, to all the historical context that is referenced. It’s such a well written book that anyone of all ages can enjoy and love.
The amount of effort that has been put into the book is evident in the details of the drawings. There’s so much to look at and analyse, but it’s also very easy to understand. While just skimming the pages gives you the general gist of the plot, observing the details in the drawings also hints at events that come in at a later point.
The prose in this book is quite simple yet it is extremely well written. The way that Selznick manages to bring everything together at the end is quite a difficult feat to manage, yet he does it. Although this isn’t a fantasy novel, there’s something magical about the whole story and the way it is presented to us, the readers.
I would highly, highly recommend that you pick up this book to read. It is truly a work of art; from the actual book with the gold pages and blue cover, to the wonderful drawings and great prose that is contained within. I think it’s Selznick’s best work to date, and it’s a book you literally fly through because it takes almost no time at all to read, ideal for anyone and everyone.