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The Marvels

Inspired by a touching visit to The Dennis Severs House, a living museum at 18 Folgate Street in the Spitalfields area of London; master storyteller, Brian Selznick, transports you through time to reveal a tale about family and belonging in his book, The Marvels. The visit he and his partner took is described in a Wall Street Journal review of his book:

"As instructed, they walked through the rooms in silence. By the end, they were in tears.“I really felt I had fallen back in time,” he said. “This was the first time that I felt like I was not standing in the present. It wasn’t scary but it was deeply strange and moving—very, very moving.”

As with two of his other novels, Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, Selznick uses the spellbinding technique of combined pictures and narrative. Part One begins with 390 pages of original hand crafted illustrations of a journey that follows five generations of a theatrical family living in London from 1766 to 1900. You can watch Brian talk about his creative process here.

Part Two is a written narrative that transports you to London in 1990 on a cold night during the Christmas holidays where we meet a young boy who has run away from boarding school. He has little infomation to guide him to the home of an uncle he once met as a little child. You can read an excerpt from the book here.

The two stories are resolved in a surprise ending where words and pictures come together. The trailer for the book is here. Selnick generously shares his passion for the creative process of storytelling through a toy theatre video based on many techniques used in 19th century, along with his updated touches. The result is mesmerizing. See the toy theatre adaption here.

In all three Selznick novels reviewed on this site, though the books are large and even look intimidating, they are filled with imaginative drawings that make you want to turn each page to discover more. Each book is worth mindfully savoring. They fill me with awe and love for the creative spirit that imbues life with meaning.

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