Published May 2016
I love talking about books. I love doing this about as much as love reading them so the first thing I did when I moved up North here to Manchester was to find out about local reading groups. I discovered that my local library runs two groups once a month. This Tuesday was my first visit.
I’ll admit to being something of a book group virgin so I arrived prepared with pages of notes on the book the lovely librarian gave me to read in preparation. The novel is called The Marble Collector and it’s written by Cecelia Ahern author of the P.S. I Love You which was turned into a film starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler with a terrible Irish accent. As I wrote some weeks ago in this blog, Cecelia Ahern is a novelist I’m familiar with but had certain preconceptions about, in particular what I thought her books were about. But it took a book group to get me to read one of her novels and this is undoubtedly one of the benefits of taking part in these kinds of groups because they introduce to books you’d never have considered reading otherwise. This was certainly the case with The Marble Collector. The blurb didn’t do it much justice either so it was with some surprise that I found myself finishing the book in two days. The Marble Collector is the kind of comforting read that wraps you up in a warm blanket on a cold, wet afternoon and leads you into a family drama that is both heart-warming and heart-breaking.
When Sabrina Boggs stumbles upon a box of her father’s belongings, she discovers a marble collection that her father, a man she thought she knew well, had hidden from her family. This discovery turns Sabrina’s uneventful life upside down as she begins to hunt for answers to the secrets he’d kept hidden his entire life. The events in the novel take place within a single day and are told from the perspective of both Sabrina and her father Fergus.
The novel looks at the nature of memory and opens with Sabrina admitting to remembering what others forget. This makes for an intriguing premise. The memories that the novel explores are largely those of her father Fergus. Looking back on his childhood we quickly begin to glimpse the world he was brought up in and the significance the marbles will play in his life, for better or for worse. After learning how he was first introduced to marbles as a young boy, the narrative switches and we meet Fergus’ daughter Sabrina, a lifeguard at a nursing home, for the first time. It’s clear that’s she’s restless with her life and despite having the husband, the family and the job she always dreamed of, finds something is still missing from her life. There was a line I found particularly beautiful when she says, “It is always above the water that I struggle, that I can’t breathe. It is above the water that I feel like I’m drowning.” (p.24)
Why doesn’t Sabrina just ask her father about the marbles you may ask? Her father has suffered a stroke causing memory loss and the story is a far more interesting one when it allows Sabrina to go on this journey of discovery. This is as much about Sabrina metaphorically saving herself from drowning as it is about Fergus’ marbles.
This isn’t a perfect novel by any means. At times the story falls into the realm of melodrama and the Fergus chapters are more absorbing than Sabrinas. But it’s an easy read that doesn’t require too much energy or brain power to invest in it and I don’t mean to be critical when I say that. Sometimes a mindless read is precisely what I need, especially after I’ve read something heavy and time-consuming. So if that’s the kind of read you’re looking forward, the give The Marble Collector a try.