Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: "A Heart So White" by Javier Marias

I first read Javier Marias last year, and thought his novel All Souls was absolutely fantastic. It took a tired cliché of the campus novel and made it deep and introspective. I immediately went out and bought a few of his other books, like all three books in his Your Face Tomorrow trilogy and the one that I just read, A Heart So White. The introduction, by English author Jonathan Coe, says that the book is a bit different than the straightforward All Souls, the book that really put Javier Marias on the map. He was right; this book takes an entirely different approach to the narrative. The confessional style is still there, with a narrator who is quite unreliable. But in this new approach, which really inundates the reader with facts and repetition, some of the power really gets lost. But luckily, not all of it falls flat. The opening of the novel is quite good, recounting, in oddly specific detail, the suicide of a woman who we learn was the narrator’s step mom. It is really interesting the way Marias threads little details through out this, from the blood stains on the floor, to the food being chewed in the mouth of the woman’s husband. Fast forward to the honeymoon of Juan, a translator, much like Marias himself, on his honeymoon, when a strange incident with a woman who thinks he is somebody else forces him to look at the suicide of his stepmom and uncover the reasons why it occurred. It is cool in the way Marias tells a detective story from the point of view of “Why rather than “Who”, but the constant bombardment of esoteric musings really took away from my enjoyment of this book, and with an ending that was a let down, this book is sadly forgettable. Hopefully Marias’ other books are as great as I know he is.

Rating: 4/5

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