A Heart So White by Javier Marias - Book Review - Kristopher Cook

A Heart So White by Javier Marías

by Kristopher Cook
A Heart so White by Javier Marias - Book Cover
Juan knows little of the interior life of his father Ranz; but when Juan marries, he begins to consider the past anew, and begins to ponder what he doesn't really want to know.
Genre: Contemporary

Immediately after her honeymoon, and during a family dinner, Teresa, goes into the bathroom and shoots herself in the heart. This is the strong, blunt opening of a book that will raise a lot of questions about the perspectives we attribute to marriage, and how we all hold our secrets close.

Focussing on Juan, the more he begins to learn about his Father’s three failed marriages, the more he begins to question his own.

Is there such a thing as true love? Can a person really be faithful to another?

Poetic Fiction

There’s a deep poetic lyricism to A Heart So White. Characters thoughts are presented as both eloquent and philosophical. The environments have a threatening element to their beauty, and the world around seems cold and vacant.

Juan has a subtle knack of eavesdropping into conversations and then letting his imagination run wild with a subsequent story.

This is none more prevalent than in his first exchanges with a Cuban woman walking around below his hotel balcony. She enters the room next to his, where Juan listens carefully to her, begging the man inside to leave his wife – which he promises to do.

Juan then thinks up the scenario from the evidence he has gathered and tries to rationalise whether the man would indeed leave his wife to join a distressed woman living in Spain.

It’s in these moments of uncertainty that Juan begins to apply the same logic to his own marriage and what it means to be faithful. While away with work, translating for foreign dignitaries, his new wife Luisa, starts to grow closer to Juan’s Father, Ranz.

Juan’s doubts play a considerable part in his own actions that could both sabotage his marriage, along with the rocky relationship he holds with his Father.

Character Flaws

I found the characters incredibly relatable throughout.

Each feels alive within the Madrid setting, fuelled by their own motives and emotions, while still sharing similar philosophical outlooks on life.

Many questions are asked of Juan, his wife, and his Father, increasing tension in the latter stages of the book.

I also revelled in the midway point of the book when introduced to Juan’s long-time friend, Berta.

Many years back, I had a friend like Berta; someone desperate for love but often looking in all the wrong places and only coming up short.

It’s a difficult situation to be in as a friend – on one side you want them to find a partner and be happy, but on the other, their current methods are only leading to sleazy blokes.

Upon reading the blurb, I did think this was going to be more of a murder mystery, rather than a philosophical drama, but the change in the genre did nothing to deter me.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the mysterious suicide mentioned in the opening serves as a reason to why, rather than being a crime with no suspects that needs solving.

Closing Thoughts

This is an excellent book that delves deep into the mind-set of a newlywed, looking at how life can quickly change once one becomes settled.

The book acts as a great healer for those looking for a different perspective on love. One’s past also holds many secrets, and sometimes we don’t need to know everything about somebody to truly love them. It’s just a shame our own ego’s get in the way of letting such things slide.

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