From the author of P.S. I Love You and Love, Rosie (previously titled Where Rainbows End), Cecelia Ahern’s The Marble Collector, published in 2015, promises an intriguing and somewhat mysterious read.
Sabrina Boggs is never-changing and predictable, and always remembers things she wants to forget. Her father Fergus, on the other hand, has had a stroke and forgotten who he is. A bad day at her job, a box missing some collectible marbles and a once-in-a-solar-eclipse chance lead Sabrina on what seems to be a wild goose chase to find the expensive missing marbles.
Two stories run parallel to each other, getting more curious and curious, as the reader is taken back and forth between present and past – Sabrina’s current life and Fergus’ now forgotten one – till figures and events from the past catch up with the present. Much like a puzzle, it slowly takes shape in a way that seems randomly fashioned but must have been painstakingly thought out by the bestselling author.
Ahern had initially thought to write a story “about a woman who literally loses her glass marbles and goes on a quest to find them”, but in the end the story became more about the woman’s father, and Sabrina here acts more like Fergus’ mirror image in character than the protagonist of the book. The title refers to Fergus, who collected marbles and played with them too. In a story that practically spans the whole of the man’s life, Ahern makes the reader sympathise with a grown man’s obsession, justifies his actions and even makes us want to look for the missing marbles with his daughter.
Image source: Independent – Cecilia Ahern
The story comes full circle with the last chapter for each of the main characters, linking them back to the first chapters in the book. A lot has changed for both characters in the course of the story, and yet at the same time, it seems like nothing’s changed at all. After all, it’s only been a day between the beginning and the end of Sabrina’s intensive search. The changes are in their reactions towards what is around them.
Ahern loves to play with style and methods, alternating her novels between different viewpoints. She seems to love emotional stories, and yet this one falls flat in that department when compared to her previous novel Love, Rosie, in which emotions seemed to jump off the page through letters written by characters trying hard not to give their feelings away to each other. In The Marble Collector, the main characters constantly talk about their feelings, leaving little for the reader to deduce. The writer’s forgotten the trick of ‘show don’t tell’ in this first person narrative, which is also devoid of the humour that made Love, Rosie such a hit, and the sorrow that had made P.S. I Love You worth confronting with protagonist Holly. So, though Fergus’ story had me enthralled, the characters left me unattached and unimpressed.
This author has a way of noticing things that would go unnoticed by many, and believing that which others wouldn’t believe. So whilst truth is stranger than fiction, she draws on impossibilities in creating her novels, presenting the reader with situations that are hard to believe. The Marble Collector is worthy of a read, but definitely not for its set of lacking characters, so absorbed in their own world that they don’t seem at all well-rounded. Rather, the highlights of this book are its portrayal of obsession, family influence and the extraordinary situation that presents itself in the mundane of the everyday.
The book for this review was kindly provided by Agenda Bookshop.