Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels fails to find the alchemy that made Selznick's Hugo Cabret work so well. It's more like the lower-key Wonderstruck, but even that made a deeper impact on me than this story. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I don't think the spirit of London is truly captured the way it needs to be for this story to work. Although the rich history of London seems like an ideal setting for Selznick's storytelling skills, the book doesn't seem to live into its setting or tap into London's mix of past, present, and future. Perhaps in the end, it's a story that sets up something like Mad King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein Castle and pretends that the fake castle is what's real. It's much better to me to recognize that the castle is fake but then to ask how was it made, and why do we still love it so much. So this story stops short of what it should be. I surprise myself a bit with my reaction, because the story is well-crafted and warm (with some quibbles about the way the pacing of Selznick's characteristic pictures holds back the story rather than promotes it), and there's a nice melancholy yet comforting vibe to the ending. For some reason it doesn't come together the way Cabret did.

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