Kris's Reviews > A Heart So White

A Heart So White by Javier Marías
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Jun 05, 12

bookshelves: 1001, fiction, spain, favorites
Read from June 01 to 05, 2012

There are so many layers to this book. You have to be willing to give it time, especially in the first third or so, when Marías writes long, intricate, sentences that fold back on themselves, with parentheses within parentheses. Through this style, Marías presents the thoughts and interpretations of the protagonist, Juan, a translator who describes himself as committed, almost addicted, to understanding all he hears, all he sees, everything around him. Juan has recently married another translator, Luisa, and throughout the novel he strives to understand his father's secrets, while also exploring the meaning in the stories, secrets, and silences if his relationships - with Luisa, with his father, with the past.

The key to the novel is the title, "A Heart So White," which is taken from Macbeth. Marías threads the line, and the play, throughout the novel, as Juan questions the culpability in listening to someone tell a dangerous secret. What power lies in telling stories, both in words and in silences? Once we hear their secrets, are we destined to repeat the sins of our parents?

I found the pacing of the novel excellent, especially in the last quarter, when Marías picks up the pacing and leaves the reader almost breathless. I am trying to avoid telling much of the plot, as much of the power of the novel lies in opening yourself up to being surprised, wanting to hear characters' secrets and dreading them at the same time. Marías also develops different threads of the novel that all come together eerily in the last two chapters, leaving us with a dread of the cyclical nature of human experience, the repetition in human relationships, and the fear that sins carry over from one generation to the next.
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Quotes Kris Liked

Javier Marías
“It's always the chest of the other person we lean back against for support, we only really feel supported or backed up when, as the latter verb itself indicates, there's someone behind us, someone we perhaps cannot even see and who covers our back with their chest, so close it almost brushes our back and in the end always does, and at times, that someone places a hand on our shoulder, a hand to calm us and also to hold us. That's how most married people and most couples sleep or think they sleep, the two turn to the same side when they say goodnight, so that one has his or her back to the other throughout the whole night, when he or she wakes up startled from a nightmare, or is unable to get to sleep, or is suffering from a fever or feels alone and abandoned in the darkness, they have only to turn round and see before them the face of the person protecting them, the person who will let themselves be kissed on any part of the face that is kissable (nose, eyes and mouth; chin, forehead and cheeks, the whole face) or perhaps, half-asleep, will place a hand on their shoulder to calm them, or to hold them, or even to cling to them.”
Javier Marías, A Heart So White


Reading Progress

06/01/2012 page 9
3.0%
06/04/2012 page 68
24.0% "I love this book, in part because it is making me slow way down when I am reading it - Marías's writing is beautiful, thought-provoking and intricate. I am finding his eloquent examinations of time and memory very engaging." 2 comments
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by PGR (new) - added it

PGR Nair A succinct and neat review. I have heard about this author, I think in connection with Bolano.I need to take a note of this book. Thank you...PGR


Kris Thanks so much, PGR. This is the book that made me add Marías to my list of favorite authors. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of it and Marías when you read this!


message 3: by Cheryl (new) - added it

Cheryl Sounds cavernous in content and well expressed! Thanks for the review.


Kris Cheryl wrote: "Sounds cavernous in content and well expressed! Thanks for the review."

Thanks so much, Cheryl. Marías has rapidly become one of my favorite writers. I'll be interested to hear what you think of him if/when you read him.


Varenka I just finished the book. Great review.


Kris Varenka wrote: "I just finished the book. Great review."

Thanks so much for the comment, Varenka. :)


Kris Ted wrote: "[spoilers removed] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5OoQ..."

Thanks, Ted! Much obliged -- and excellent lyrical link as well. :)


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