30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
New novels by J.M.Coetzee and Javier Marias in a single month? It must be the best March in history for the readers of the world.
The Infatuations is a novel about grief, love, death. It's more focussed, more concentrated, than much of Marias's work I've read up to now - this is both good and bad. The novel has drive and direct force and I finished it in a couple of sittings. However I did on occasion find myself wishing that he'd let himself with his digressions a bit more! There a few bits and pieces that I do think a little more could have been done with, such as the initial conceit of one character observing two others in a cafe every single morning. But there we are. Yes it could have been 500 pages and I would have liked it. As it is it's 350 and I like it. No, not like it: love it. Of course!
I adore Marias's style. It is made for my heart, my mind. Its rhythms coil themselves into my brain perfectly. His writing is hypnotic, languorous, philosophical, striking. He builds up themes and colours with repetitions, digressions, asides, tangents. He's a writer who manages to create both vague impressions and also to convey very specific ideas at the same time, in a completely unique way.
As far as I'm concerned, he's a genius. Anything he writes is worth reading, and this as much as anything. It's a fascinating book, superbly written. To be honest it's an ideal Marias introduction - it diverges, wanders, a little less than some of his other books, the themes are more focused, there are fewer events. It has volumes to say about love, trust, death, dying, returning. I don't see myself reading a better book this year.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Javier Maria's latest novel 'The Infatuations' is narrated by Maria Dolz, a woman in her late thirties, who works for a Madrid publisher and who takes her breakfast every morning in the same cafe. At this rather ordinary cafe, Maria observes an unusually handsome married couple as they breakfast together before going their separate ways. Maria can see the man and woman are very close by the way they look at each other and how they seem to take pleasure in one another's company, and Maria enjoys watching them and imagining their lives. One day, the couple are not there, and Maria is surprised to discover that she feels strangely deprived of their company, even though they have never really spoken to her. It is only later, when Maria is made aware of the brutal and fatal stabbing of the man, that she discovers who the couple are.
Some time later, when Maria sees the woman at the cafe again, she decides to offer her condolences and is surprised when the woman, Luisa, invites her to call at her home that evening. At Luisa's home, where Luisa talks to Maria about the intense grief and bewilderment caused by her husband's death, Maria meets Javier Diaz-Varela, whom she describes to the reader as handsome and virile, with delicate features, almond-shaped eyes and lips that make her want to kiss them. After this meeting at Luisa's home, Maria finds herself becoming increasingly involved in the lives of Luisa and Javier and, as she spends more time in Javier's company and becomes closer to him, she discovers things which make her look at the seemingly random and apparently motiveless death of Luisa's husband in a different light.
This is not the average type of murder mystery novel, just as Javier Marias is not the average kind of writer. It says in my copy, that with this novel, Marias brilliantly imagines the murder novel as a metaphysical enquiry, addressing existential questions of life, death, love and morality. And that is exactly what this novel is. This is a beautifully and elegantly written story where, through language, events are carefully analysed (which, as Marias was a student of English philology and his father was a well-known philosopher, might explain his style of writing) and I found this novel an intriguing, intelligent and thought-provoking read, with an intellectual rather than emotional appeal. This may not be the book to choose if you are looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven story, as the action is mostly restricted to that of the cerebral variety; however if you are more interested in language than plot, and you enjoy authors who use language to delve beneath the outer layers to the inner person in order to examine not just what happens, but the consequences of those events, and beyond, then this might be just what you are looking for. A rather stylish read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Maria, a publisher's assistant, sees 'the perfect couple' every day as she breakfasts at a restaurant, and forms an unspoken bond with them. Although the whole novel revolves around this couple, we actually hardly meet them, for the husband is murdered - a senseless stabbing. Maria pays a visit to his distraught widow, where she encounters Javier Diaz-Varela, friend of the deceased...
This is much more than a murder story; in lengthy conversations (but which I found pretty readable), the protagonists mull over such matters as obsessive love, death (would it really be a good thing if we could bring back the deceased, once their loved ones have moved on with their lives?) and crime. The sort of book you finish and straightaway think 'I could do with reading that a second time.' Emphatically not dull - up to the last chapter you're wondering what's going to happen.
Marias certainly is a great writer.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Shameful to say, this is my first Javier Marías book and I have come away from it - just this moment - slightly shell-shocked by the power it had to move me.
The story is told by María Dolz who becomes entranced with a happy, loving couple who breakfast at the same café as her every morning; without their knowing it, they enable her to start her working day on a note of optimism. Then, one day, they aren't there and María is left feeling bereft. From a newspaper, María learns that the husband, Miguel, has met a brutal death. Later, she sees his widow in the café and approaches her to offer condolences thus setting off a chain of events in which María, the Prudent Young Woman - as the couple had termed her, becomes pivotal.
Javier Marías has constructed a deeply thought-provoking novel around the subjects of love, loss and the nature of time. "We cannot know what time will do to us with its fine, indistinguishable layers upon layers, we cannot know what it might make of us...its treacherous minutes and its sly seconds, until a strange, unthinkable day arrives, when nothing is as it always was..."
An existential novel such as The Infatuations leads the reader to peer into its hidden depths. It is interesting to note that the author's name for the narrator is María and his name for the dead man's best friend with whom she falls in love is Javier. Then there are the different spellings of Miguel's surname - Desvern or Deverne - which are explained at the outset and yet the names continue to alternate throughout the book. Whether these things are significant or not though, I'm not clever enough to discern. Perhaps I'm looking for something that isn't there but such is the deeply exploratory nature of the writing that Javier Marías makes the reader think. And think again.
An extraordinary book - and the front cover photography on the hard-back edition catches the essence of infatuation brilliantly.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2013
This book is clever, absorbing and beautifully written. It is also wonderfully crafted - a mature writer at his best.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Normally I begin writing a review knowing how many stars I'm going to give the book. With this book, Javier Marias' "The Infatuations", I'm beginning by writing the review and then determining the number of stars. This is a book that has already received reviews on both Amazon/US and Amazon/UK ranging from one to five stars, and in general, all the reviewers have thoroughly justified their star ranking. I hope to do the same.
I think "The Infatuations" might be another book like Dutch writer Herman Koch's "The Dinner", published earlier this year. Like "The Dinner", a great deal of Marias' novel takes place in restaurants and cafes. There's a lot of talking, a lot of emotional speculation, and a somewhat unreliable narrator. OR, is the unreliable narrator simply receiving unbelievable information and passing it along to the reader? Certainly parts of the plot are either silly or unbelievable, and sometimes, both. But, you as a reader have to separate what the narrator - a Madrid book editor named Maria Dolz - is hearing and what she's passing on to you, This is often difficult as much of the book is written in long, windy, stream-of-thought style.
The Jewish sage Hillel was once asked to describe the meaning of the Torah, while standing on one foot. He said, "Do not do unto others what you would not like done to you. And the rest is commentary". So it is with Javier Marias book. His entire book could have been written in 50 pages, but the rest is commentary. Along with frequent references to Honore Balzak, and Macbeth, Javier Marias (and his translator, Margaret Jull Costa) drill into the reader's mind about the permanence of death, while also treating a murder plot as casual and planned as "if it works, fine, if it doesn't, fine..."
The main characters in the book are presented - or present themselves - in an almost casual way. Maria Dolz sees a married couple - Miguel and Luisa - sharing breakfast before their work days begin in the same cafe she eats in. They're a seemingly adoring couple and Maria seems to almost fall in love with them as a couple. She later finds out the husband was killed in a murderous rage by a "street person". Maria befriends the grieving widow - and she IS grieving - and spends an evening at the widow, Luisa's, home. There she meets some friends of Luisa and falls in love/lust with Miquel's best friend, who is comforting the widow.
But what is the truth of the seemingly at-random street attack on Miguel? And what leads up to it and what is the result of the murder on the survivors' lives? This is where Maria as a somewhat unreliable narrator comes into play. This is where the novel fails; where plots and excuses and lies and rationale for the murder are convoluted and not believable, and MARIA'S REACTIONS ARE NOT BELIEVABLE.
After rereading what I wrote above, I'm going to chicken-out and give "The Infatuations" a three. Three star reviews from me are neither negative or positive (I wish Amazon felt the same, but they'll put this review in as a negative). I can neither recommend or not-recommend this book to readers, but can only urge potential readers to read ALL the reviews and make a decision. This is one book that will garner a lot of attention in the press and, it should.
on 20 April 2013
I like to read books outside my comfort zone and this one gradually draws the reader in; first describing in detail the thoughts of a woman regarding a devoted married couple she sees every day in a breakfast bar and then turning into a story of infatuation and murder, but murder story like no other I have read. It is unsettling to be reading the stream-of-consciousness thoughts and philosophy, with many references to Balzac's 'Colonel Chabert', and then being jarred into actual events such as murder and talk of assisted suicide clinics. Not one for whodunit fans but riveting nonetheless.
on 4 July 2013
I found the first half rather tedious - the rumblings of the deceased's friends were particularly tedious - either he really was or something was getting lost in translation. I suspect it was the former. Once the plot begins to reveal then we are off to the races and the book takes off to become an interesting and well written read. Fond the reflections on death and relationships very revealing and deep.
I apologies to many for this high level review but I am writing it several months after finishing the book.
on 7 December 2013
This is a slow and marvellous piece of writing. it was very therapeutic to read it. Favourite passages were descriptions of the couple at the beginning, the bereavement itself, how the children feel about their mother and vice versa and the narrrator's feelings about her love for her lover. Real and intimate.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2013
Lovely dustjacket, glowing review on the dustjacket, a lovely holiday read, I thought. But the just an endless, ridiculous twittering of detail that exasperates. A variation on that dead kind of writing that avoids full stops or paragraphs, this just buzzes manically round inside the characters' heads in a claustrophobic, introverted, relentless way for as long as I could bare to read - about a third of the way through. One for the charity shop? No. Another poor soul might, like me, part with money for it. One for the bin. Sceptical? Don't say that you weren't warned! This is as far from enjoyable writing as it is possible to get. Wearisome. And, after all that, it enshrines a story that is just plain silly. I wish I could cite some redeeming feature, but my disappointment was complete. I kept hoping that the painful, hypnotic monotony would blossom like a butterfly, but it was never going to happen. So, sorry... No!