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3.8 out of 5 stars18
3.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 27 May 2014
The protagonist of Javier Marias' sixth novel 'All Souls' is an unnamed Spanish lecturer who narrates his own story, telling the reader how one evening at High Table at the Oxford college he is assigned to, he cannot fail to notice his attractive fellow tutor, Clare Bayes. With her low-cut dress visible beneath her black gown, Clare attracts more than her fair share of attention from the other occupants of the table, not least the wandering eyes of the Warden, whose drunken antics absolutely amaze our Spanish visitor. Before long, Clare and our Spaniard are conducting an affair behind Clare's husband's back, and as we read on we learn how our hero becomes drawn into the unique world of Oxford academia, where he meets a whole host of eccentric and richly-observed characters.

In common with other novels by this author, this is a well-written and deftly composed story that draws the reader into the life of our unnamed protagonist; however, I do have to comment that this novel is not on the same level as the author's impressive: A Heart so White (Penguin Modern Classics) or, indeed, his latest novel: The Infatuations. That said, this novel with with its philosophic approach combined with a 'tongue in cheek' look at academia does have its sharp and darkly comic moments (although some of these may appear a little contrived), and there is a more serious story to be told within its pages. So, an unusual novel and one that is worth the read if you are an admirer of Javier Marias and keen to read all of his books - but not one that I would go out of my way to recommend to someone who was not familiar with the author's writing.

3 Stars.
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on 6 January 2013
This was chosen by my book club and I was not partcularly keen to read it. I have just finished it and I have to say that it is excellent, although I agree with the earlier reviewer that is is nothing like David Lodge. The book provides an view into the world of Oxford academia that is masterful in both its insight and its writing. The characters and events are beautifully developed and described. I laughted out loud at the description of High Table dinner.

Yes, it has a slow pace, but this enabled the author to develop his theme and characters. I loved the writing style and will no doubt read more of Jose Marias' novels. I thoroughly recommend this novel.
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on 3 April 2013
This gem of a book reminded me intensely of Anthony Powell, with its preoccupation with some real-life minor literary characters and musings on the minutiae of personal relationships. The section on the contents of rubbish bins had me wondering if we were going off course but the plot was resolved beautifully. A good translation for once, although it would be hard to find a university novel less like 'Small World', to which the blurb unhelpfully compares it. Tempted to read more of his stuff, although I wonder whether this could be a one-off.
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on 31 July 2003
A highly satisfying novel. Marias constructs a thoughtful but not over-complex narrative and adds plenty of very pleasing (and accurate) vignettes and impressions about life in Oxford. People who are familiar with the city will definitely get a lot out of this book. Even those who are not, however, will be fully able to appreciate the superb approaches to themes including love, sloth, loneliness, and growing old. Fans of W.G. Sebald would be likely to enjoy this book. Highly recommended.
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This novel by Javier Marias takes place in Oxford and its university. Like the author himself the narrator is Spanish and spends two years working at the university, however we never know the narrator's name. As the narrator looks back on his time at Oxford we follow his memories as he tells us of his adulterous affair with a colleague's wife, and the girl he meets in a disco.

If you are looking for something which has some action or excitement in it, then this isn't the book for you, as nothing much really happens throughout the story. Instead this has some keen observations on the British beggar compared to his Spanish counterpart, and quite a few interesting characters, as well as its comic moments. With the narrator inventing his own etymologies for Spanish words, and people who were once spies and avid book collectors this is an interesting read that does hold your attention. If you are looking for something a bit laid back that you can relax and enjoy then this may be the book for you.
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on 26 August 2013
"All Souls" is not just a campus novel, but a novel, literally, about souls, those of the living and those of the dead. It is more specifically about the transmigration of souls and the mysterious ways that souls are linked together. As is said of Will, the ancient porter of the Institutio Tayloriana, at the end of the novel, "for him all souls are still alive."

It is thus that the keen reader will come to realise the uncanny bond between the retired, eminent scholar Toby Rylands and the already dead, obscure, real-life writer Terry Armstrong, known as John Gawsworth. They two, with the narrator's resolute lover, Clare Bayes, an Oxford tutor, and her father have all become witnesses to a dreadful event: the suicide of a beloved person. The narrator, a sly Spaniard, is lecturing in Oxford for two years and will soon become aware of the phantasmagorical quality of Oxford life, a city whose inhabitants are more concerned with simply "being" than with "acting," and where mutual spying is the norm. There is hardly a possibility to live a sound, "real" life in Oxford, such as the narrator resumes when he returns to Madrid, and those who live there all partake of an awareness of death - the "downhill feeling" - that the narrator as a Southerner lacks and yet feels strangely compelled to try to make his own.

I have analysed this translation and it is generally very adequate.
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on 4 April 2013
I loved this novel. It might not be to everyone's taste as it deals with the mysteries and vagaries of memory and there is little in the sense of a plot driving the novel on. But if you go with it you will find that yourself surrendering to its languid and occasionally witty style. By the end the novel is deeply moving as Marias draws together the threads of the various characters, living and dead, he has written about. If you love Sebald you will love Marias.
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on 25 January 2015
Excellent example of Marias's work and what a send-up of Oxford dons' lives. How they must have hated Marias for spending a year or two amongst them as an honorary college member and lecturer and then writing this. A brilliant and wonderfully observed read, especially the description of dinner at high table
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on 14 April 2013
Hated it. Not a patch on David Lodge, J.I.M. Stewart/Michael Innes etc. I can't agree with The Times Literary Supplement 's assessment "A dazzling example of the Oxford novel". The blurb on the back cover says it is a masterpiece of black humour. It may well be but my copy has been dispatched to a charity shop.
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on 27 April 2013
So disappointed with this book after reading the shorts stories in When I was Mortal, which were all very good with clean crisp writing that flowed enjoyably. This book, however, tried far too hard as if in hope of impressing the Oxford bores in centres on. It started off OK, but by the middle it became a chore.
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