Ruiz Zafón, Carlos "Marina" (Spanish: Marina) - 1999
Just as Carlos Ruiz Zafón's other books, "Marina" grips you from the first page. It starts with the end, as the author reveals but it is exciting all the way. This is even darker than any of his other novels.
This book was written before "The Shadow of the Wind" and has only become famous after that big one was such a huge success. Again, Barcelona plays a major role and one gets the idea that it is full of secret and forbidden streets and alleyways that everyone would like to explore.
Óscar and Marina, the protagonists of this story, come across a mysterious character, someone who should have been dead a long time ago. Ruiz Zafón is faithful to his storytelling and doesn't disappoint anyone who has read his later books. Shows how you have to be on all the shelves before you are read. It is a horror story as well as a love story, actually, two love stories, one in the past, the other one in the presence, both beautiful and "forever".
In any case, if you want a short book (only 350 pages) with an exciting story, this is your literature. It's gripping and just brilliant. One of those "unputdownables". I love Carlos Ruiz Zafón's novels and would like to learn Spanish well enough just to be able to read them.
From the back cover:
"In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Óscar Drei suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts. It all began the previous autumn when, while exploring the dilapidated grounds of what seemed to be an abandoned house filled with portraits, he inadvertently stole a gold pocket watch. Thus begins Óscar's friendship with Marina and her father Herman Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Óscar to the gardens of the nearby cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m., a coach drives up to the cemetery and a woman with her face shrouded, wearing gloves, and holding a single rose is helped down from the coach and walks over to a nameless gravestone, where she sets down the flower, pauses for a moment, and then returns to the coach. The gravestone bears no marking but the outline of a strange-looking butterfly with open wings. On one of their subsequent walks Óscar and Marina spot the same woman and determine to follow her. Thereupon begins their journey into the woman's past, and that of the object of her devotion. It is a journey that takes them to the heights of a forgotten, postwar-Barcelona society, of now aged or departed aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and into the depths of the city's mysterious underground of labyrinthine sewers, corrupt policemen, beggars' hovels, and criminal depravity."