Book of the Week

The Marble Collector by Cecilia Ahern. Photo: PA Photo/HarperCollins.
The Marble Collector by Cecilia Ahern. Photo: PA Photo/HarperCollins.

The Marble Collector by Cecilia Ahern

“We all have things we never want to forget. We all need a person to remember them, just in case.”

Sabrina Boggs’ life is unexpectedly turned upside down when she discovers a vast marble collection among her father’s possessions. The man she thought she knew so well becomes a total stranger. Cecilia Ahern masterfully guides us on a journey of discovery and hidden truths, switching between Sabrina’s narrative and various flashbacks from her father, Fergus and his secret double life.

We learn that Fergus has suffered a stroke in his late forties and his memory has become blurred and inconsistent. He lives his life in a care home, under the watchful eye of a charming nurse, Lea. His recollections are patchy and as the reader witnesses Fergus reminiscing about key moments in his life, we learn about the trials and tribulations of growing up in Dublin with many siblings and not much money. When Sabrina notices a glimmer of excitement in her father’s eyes when she presents him with his marbles, she’s convinced there is a wealth of untold stories and makes it her mission to discover the truth in a 24-hour period.

This story is no typical ‘hidden family secret’ plot. Ahern shrewdly narrates various anecdotes of Fergus’ life, some sweet and touching and others much darker and sobering. One can even imagine each tale being its own short story, as piece by piece we learn how Fergus has transformed from a passionate and open-minded young boy into the secretive and closed man Sabrina is desperate to understand.

This is a heart-warming and thought-provoking tale exploring the fragility of memory and the complications of family relationships. Ahern is an expert storyteller, transporting the reader to different pivotal moments in Fergus’ childhood, adolescence and young adult life. These reflective chapters worked more effectively that Sabrina’s modern-day manic narrative, but nevertheless this is a charming and poignant novel.