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VINE VOICEon 21 October 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Very much a 'literary' novel, in that it is concerned primarily with style over a fairly minimalistic plot, and one's appreciation of the novel is going to depend entirely on how one feels about the author's distinctive prose style. It's certainly unique (to me, at least). Marias hates full stops: the novel consists almost entirely of extremely over-extended sentences that any other sane author would break into three or four. His use of paragraphs is similarly hesitant - a single paragraph can stretch over three or more pages, meaning that one can open the book to be confronted by a double page spread entirely devoid of indentations, just a solid block of text. His style is also long-winded, every action is examined in minute detail, with the characters every inner thought noted in a stream-of-consciousness style. Often, his sentences can suddenly change direction halfway through and, with a 'perhaps' or 'maybe', suddenly offer a completely different point of view, leaving the reader with no single clear statement, but a collection of two or more alternatives to ponder. Reading this novel is a bit like trying to navigate through a fog, or being regaled by a very long-winded drunk. Several times during reading I had the urge to grasp the author by his lapels and shout at him to 'just get on with it!'

However (and it's a big 'however'), if you can mentally adjust yourself to the author's unique style, the quality of the writing does gradually shine through. Marias uses repeated ideas, phrases, sentences and chunks of text, gradually building up to an almost hypnotic effect on the reader, highlighting the power of storytelling, the masks and lies that we tell each other, and the lingering hold of the dead. The climax, in which he neatly mirrors the experiences of the narrator with the windowed husband of the dead wife is also pulled off with aplomb.

This certainly isn't a book for everyone, but if you can put the effort in required of a 'diffult' book, then you should find yourself rewarded.
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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the first Javier Marias novel I have read, but it certainly won't be the last.
Much like the main female character in the book (and I am giving nothing away here - Marias reveals this in the first sentence), the book's time may end, but the memory of it (however small this may only be - as Marias says, all our memories are only a "tiny fraction of what was said") will live on. This is a haunting book, saddled with the heavier questions of life and death - a ponderous book both in its subject matter and its prose style (paragraphs can go on for five or six pages; sentences can span half a page).
Essentially, the book concerns a man (Victor) who intends to commit adultery, but the woman (Marta) with whom he intends to do so dies unexpectedly as they enter the bedroom. The plot spins out from there, as Victor considers his actions and tries to recompense for them. I won't reveal anything more about the plot, although, this isn't really a book that is about its plot - it is a book about the more profound "what-ifs" of an absent life; the ways we are deceived, or live in ignorance, every day ("the consolations of uncertainty"), and how we would act if we weren't in this state; whether the lives we end up living are premeditated or accidental; whether the plot of our lives we look back on only appears logical through hindsight; and, most overarchingly, the inevitable dissolution of things.
The novel is laced with passages you want to underline and read over and over again. Here are a couple (which also will give a taste of Marias' inimitable prose style):
"So much else goes on behind our backs, our capacity for knowledge is so limited, we cannot see what lies behind a wall or anything happening at a distance, someone only has to whisper or move slightly away from us and we can no longer hear what he or she is saying, and our life might depend on it."
"One has to fill up the insistent time that continues to pass without waiting for us... having to decide without knowing, having to act without knowing and yet foreseeing, and that is the greatest and most common of misfortunes, foreseeing what will come afterwards, it's a misfortune generally perceived as quite a minor one, yet experienced by everyone every day."
In terms of comparing Marias to other writers, I would draw parallels to Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Ernesto Sabato. Fans of those writers will most certainly not be disappointed with Marias.
One final what if: What if I had never read Javier Marias? Well, my reading life would have been significantly poorer. This is a writer you cannot ignore.
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VINE VOICEon 18 October 2012
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A man has a meeting with a married woman and while they are undressing she feels unwell and subsequently dies. This is a dense novel with a mass of text on every page, which is full of stream of consciousness digressions, reversals, what might have beens and flashbacks. The man questions everything and thinks up different outcomes of differet situations at every turn.

This is not really the type of thing I like, as you read the text it sort of bombards your mind and it is very easy to get lost and forget what has been going on - although not very much actually happens. Overall I would give this a miss, unless you particularly like stream of consciousness writing, and am surprised it has been released as a Penguin Modern Classic as, for me, it adds nothing to this particular style of writing.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Like much postmodern literary fiction, this is as, perhaps more, concerned with narrative and the power of storytelling than anything else. Marias' prose is elegant, cool, precise, sometimes profound, sometimes mundane, often lit with a dark and mordant sense of humour.

If you want a `plot', then this probably isn't for you. Taking its origins from texts like Joyce's Ulysses or Proust, this is a book which exists, almost completely, in the minds of its narrators. There is a story here, but that isn't really the point of the book: meditations on death, on life, on responsibility, all circle around the idea of stories: what we tell other people, what we tell ourselves in order to be able to carry on living - truthful, deceitful, lying and all powerful.

For me, this is an interesting read rather than a compelling or engrossing one: read it for the texture of the prose, the intelligence of the text, and the dark vigour and energy.
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2012
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As other reviewers have commented 'Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me' is a book to be enjoyed for its language and style more than its plot, although the plot, minimal as it is does throw up some interesting and thought provoking ideas. Victor is in bed with Marta, a married woman, when she suddenly becomes ill and dies, should he leave or stay, should he contact someone and let them know? His dilemma is made worse by the fact that she has a 2 year old son. Even if he did say something would it make any difference? He intends to tell the truth to her family but when and how. Even when he meets her husband and sister he keep his peace, waiting for the right moment. The dead Marta haunts his life. At times it reads like a psychological thriller and it has a stunning twist towards the end, Victor's decision to stay quiet on the night has consequences he could never have imagined.

The writing style is compelling and poetic. The structure with long, often rambling sentences and paragraphs will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Latin American/Spanish writers and I found this novel to be more accessible than much of Roberto Bolano's work, for example. The translator, Margaret Jull Costa definitely deserves a mention, translated works can sometimes appear clunky but she has obviously worked to bring out the style of the original as well as the story, it could almost have been written in English originally.

The title is taken from Shakespeare's Richard III, words spoken to Richard by the ghost of Clarence. Parts of the speech are quoted throughout and there is a section of the narrative where kingship is discussed, fuelled by the watching of an old film. I think it safe to say that Marias has a liking for the Bard and I wouldn't be surprised if this novel has a few readers reaching for their copies of Shakespeare, I did. This is not a novel for anyone looking for a plot driven novel with action as very little actually happens throughout. However if you enjoy beautiful, poetic, hypnotic and thought provoking writing then I am sure you are going to love this.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 January 2017
I always wonder when reading books written in a foreign language how much of the overall impact is down to the original writer, and how much to the translator. A case in point would be Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume which I remember for the extraordinary flamboyance of its descriptive passages. Having only read it in English, I have no idea whether that was a straight representation of the original German, or a marvellous tour de force from the translator. Javier Marias’s novel is a simple story, beautifully told, and I find myself similarly unsure who to thank most: writer or translator. Of course, you are probably all shouting, ‘Does it really matter?’, and I suppose you are right.

The premise for the story is relatively straightforward. A man has dinner with a married woman while her husband is away on a business trip to London. This is their first night together, and romance is delayed until she has managed to put her young son to bed. During the night, she is taken ill and dies, leaving the man with a difficult decision: does he stay to inform the authorities and ensure that the boy is looked after, or does he just leave as quietly as possible, having removed any evidence that he had ever been there. He chooses the latter option, and the book recounts the various consequences that ensue.

Marais captures the man’s panic, and the wrenching of his conscience, masterfully. The book seethes with emotion, though never succumbs to tawdry cliché. Every character is entirely believable, and the story builds with great power.
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VINE VOICEon 29 October 2012
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The first I heard of this novelist was when Penguin announced they would be publishing this title along with three others in their Modern Classics range. They have given all four books gorgeous covers which I hope will encourage adventurous readers to give him a go. Marias is not only a novelist but also a translator (particularly from English into Spanish) so it is no surprise that he is so interested in language and the way that it can be formed, reformed, contradicted and misunderstood. This is an author who likes to change direction midway through a sentence... and these are some long drawn out sentences, so he has plenty of room for manoeuvre!

To try to describe his writing style is difficult but here goes: Imagine the verbosity of something like Tristram Shandy (Penguin English Library) or Moby-Dick (Vintage Classics). Now couple that with the stream of consciousness of say Mrs Dalloway (Penguin Essentials). Finally add a dash of suspense - the plot (what there is of it) centres around a man having an affair with a woman who drops dead in her own home and the man's obsession with the death and whether or another husband will figure out that she was with a lover when she died... and the lover's identity.

It's not an easy read and I imagine a lot of people will be put off by the style and the long, long sentences. If you get through the first chapter and enjoy it, stick with the whole book, it is well worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Given this is categorised as a modern classic, I did try hard to get in to the writing style. Despite three or four attempts however, I just couldn't.

I have no experience of Maris' writing beyond this one work. Unfortunately, I found the introspective rambling too loose to be engaging, and the prose itself seemed forced instead of a natural flow of consciousness. For me, the end result is not worth the effort the reader has to expend forcing their way through each page. One to miss, I'm afraid.
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on 7 February 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an excellent novel. It's not necessarily for everyone, admittedly. Marias, in this novel at least, has an interesting prose style. It's dense, with little pause for breath (this may be due to the lack of full stops).

This novel is unashamedly a meditation on death, rather than a story which goes in a linear fashion from A > B. It opens with a man meeting a woman who dies unexpectedly and, as far as he can tell without cause. He then, through a series of flashbacks and speculations fears that people may suspect him of causing her death. He wonders at the nature of death. Early in the novel, he wonders that, perhaps, her death was less a tragedy than it was embarrassing. There's a lot of this. He seeks out the family of the dead woman, visiting her family and meeting her husband. It's almost as though he wishes to be caught out as having been intending to have an affair with her.

That's basically it, but I seriously recommend you seek this novel out. The prose is a little heavy-going, sure. The plot basically non-existent, but I think this is a particularly affecting novel. Outstanding.
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on 19 January 2014
If you wish to read a novel that lucidly deals with the complexities of communicating with others, plus innumerable other subtle observations on everyday living, matters of the heart, the unknowability of others as well as self, plus how much of everything that ever happens is not known to others or the "world" and is quickly wiped away, then this novel and this author are for you. A true gem.
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