It isn’t what you should be carrying on the local train, or what you should bring out at the airport waiting lounge. It should be immersed into, at intervals - like wine - giving you time to dive in and come up for air every once in a while.
Paraphrasing what the novel is about is pointless. There is a murder, if one can call it that, and an air of mystery surrounding the protagonists. What Marias does, however, is use his characters not so much to move the action along - as, say, a murder mystery writer would - but to tackle the big questions that all major writers grapple with; questions about the meaning, or lack thereof, of life and death.
As Maria Dolz, the narrator, is drawn into the lives of Luisa Alday, her husband Miguel Desverne and his best friend Diaz-Varela, everything that at first reading appears to be random is revealed as anything but. For those familiar with Marías’ history - specifically the years he spent translating Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare and other greats from the English canon into Spanish - it’s interesting to try and trace his influences.
To be fair, the book does what all good murder mysteries are supposed to: deceive the reader. One learns, or is taught, to expect the unexpected. Do pick up a copy.
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