Normally I begin each review by sharing the first sentence. That won't be happening with The Marvels, for better or worse! Except for the year "1766" there are no sentences until page 392. The first sentence from the prose section of The Marvels--following another year, 1990--is: "Joseph was lost."
Readers may or may not be lost as well depending on how well they do with reading wordless books. I'd say it was like following the action of a silent movie, but, silent movies gives you mood music and some text.
The first character we meet is Billy Marvel, a boy (dressed up as a girl for a play on a ship) who survives a terrible, terrible storm at sea. He's rescued, and eventually finds his way to the theatre--along with his dog--and the two find a place to BELONG on stage. Billy is the first of many Marvels who find their place at the theatre. This wordless section takes us through many, many generations.
The modern day character we meet is Joseph. He's run away from school. He's unhappy. He's in London, I believe, and is trying to find his uncle whom he's never actually met before. His uncle's house is one of a kind. And it's a house packed floor to ceiling in mysterious atmosphere. Joseph thinks he unravels his family tree by looking closely at his new environment, but, appearances can be deceiving.
If I had to sum up the Marvels, I'd call it a coming-of-age mystery about belonging and finding your special place in the world, about not letting others define who you are and what you do with your life.
Did I love it? Did I like it? Well. I definitely didn't love it. I think in some ways it's a premise-driven novel. It explores reality and fantasy, fact and fiction. It plays with what is "real" or "true." Without a doubt it plays with perception.
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews