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THE MARBLE COLLECTOR

Cecelia Ahern is an Irish novelist, born and brought up in Dublin. She has her works published in 50 countries and has sold over 25 million copies of her novels worldwide. Two of her books have been adapted as films and she has created several TV series. She and her books have won numerous awards.

The Marble Collector is a thought-provoking novel about how the most ordinary decisions we make can have the most extraordinary consequences on how we live our lives. Sometimes it’s only by shining a light on someone else that you can truly understand yourself. It is an Illuminating and touching fatherdaughter story about memory, childhood and secrets.

“When it comes to memory there are three categories – things I want to forget, things I can’t forget and things I’d forgotten I forgot until I remember them.” Memory is what makes us individuals. It shapes our personality. It has the power to change our emotional state in the blink of an eye. Many of us are haunted by memories that we’d give everything to erase and all of us have memories we turn to when we need to go back to those moments when we were truly happy. Imagine the loss when we lose this capability!!!

Fergus Boggs suffered a stroke and has dementia. His memory “ebbs and flows like the waves of the Irish sea”. He is in an OldAge Care Home. Sabrina, his daughter, visits him regularly and genuinely cares for him. As a mother of three sons, she is more than busy. Her job in a Care-Centre, as a swimming pool lifeguard, is boring and her marriage isn’t as happy anymore as it used to be. She cannot understand herself or her problems and feels lost.

Sabrina gets a phone call from her father’s rehabilitation centre to look up some cartons which have been delivered as his old belongings. Since she has a rare day off (her husband has taken the three boys on a camp outing to watch the solar eclipse), she decides to go through the contents of the boxes. She’s surprised to find a valuable collection of marbles, very meticulously segregated, described, valued and catalogued. Some of the most expensive marbles are missing, forcing her to find out more. Sabrina is bewildered by this mysterious finding. “She discovers a truth where she never knew there was a lie”. The familiar man she grew up with is suddenly a stranger to her. She has only “this single free day” to unlock the secrets of the man she thought she knew. A day that unearths memories, stories and people she never knew existed. “Sometimes it’s the people closest to us that we know the least”. A day that changes her and those around her forever...!

This novel spans bothone day and a whole lifetime. It’s told from alternating perspectives- both in the first person. Fergus’s chapters are always titled “Playing with Marbles” & then the name of either a sort of marble or the game that is mentioned in the chapter. Sabrina’s are titled “Pool Rules” which relates to her love of water, swimming and her job as a lifeguard. Fergus’s story starts with him being a sad and scared five-year-old boy, receiving his first marbles. “Allies. I like that. It makes me feel like a soldier.” He has a complex childhood background- one of seven rowdy boys- with an absent mother and a harsh stepfather. He finds solace in his secret world of marbleskeeping his passion to himself. He’s unable to share it earlier with his brothers and later with his wife Gina and their daughter Sabrina, for fear of ridicule. He leads a double lifeone as “Fergus Boggs” the salesman, and another as “Hamish O’Neill”- ‘the best individual player in the marble World Championship’. The sacrifices that he makes, the lies and excuses he tells- all to pursue his passion are really sad.

The world of marbles is intriguing- the art of making each piece, the uniqueness of its design and the depth of understanding of the passion for each. “The marble he gave me is the brown one I was immediately drawn to when I first arrived. It looks like a plain brown marble- but when I hold it up to the moonlightit glows with orange and amber-like it has a fire burning brightly inside. Just like its owner.”

Ahern cleverly and systematically turns the tables, providing thought-provoking life lessons -the meaning of family, passion, friendship and above all -the importance of being oneself.” It’s a thoroughly engaging novel. Do read it. The magical world of marbles will lure you in.

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