As the air cooled on the evening of one of the hottest days of the summer, about 8 members of the Barga Book Club met on Pietro and Marijke’s spacious terrace to discuss A Heart So White, by Javier Marias, with the spectacular view of Monte Forato in the distance.
A Heart So White, is a love story. It is couched in an intrigue of a tragedy recounted by one who was not directly involved. A narrative in the form of the memory thought process where one goes over and over the minutiae of a heartbreaking event which could never have been prevented, the protagonist wasn’t even born yet, yet he repeats the circumstances which led up to the event and its aftermath again and again, the way one does in one’s mind, in the hope of understanding and coming to terms with them and perhaps to prevent or avoid it happening again. In an effort that the sins of the father are not visited on the son.
The novel opens with the heart wrenching suicide of a newlywed bride and eventually unravels a story of parallels, sublime clues, and complex relationships. The narrator veers off on seemingly unrelated tangents which eventually clarify or inform the narrative intrigue. It is a love story, as the narrator continuously and repeatedly seeks to put his marriage into perspective as to his expectations and its limitations, to understand how one can grow and continue to love a partner over the long term, and avoid the common pitfalls of disillusion and boredom, which have resulted in tragedy. He exhorts the reader to “‘devote yourself to the marriage itself, as if confronted by the most important structure and task of your life, even if you believe that the task has already been completed and the structure built.” Alas, this is fiction for, in interview, the author says he will never marry.
Margaret, who had recommended the novel, pointed out the references to Macbeth, both obvious, the title is based on it, and indirect, the suicide of a wife based on her own feeling of complicity, or even culpability, in murder. Margaret referenced the film Sliding Doors for its similar sense of parallel universes. She mentioned the sense of listening to music, where the melody is repeated, and becomes familiar and comforting. How we are effected by circular decisions.
Isobel, as with several others, was eventually drawn into the story, having had to overcome a sense of tedium with its repetitiveness, but ultimately found it clever and fascinating.
Salene referenced the feeling that each repetition felt like an embellishment to a painted picture, and confirmed the musical sense of the rondo, with a current running through that something was not quite right.
Pietro, found it fully engaging but felt that the final mystery was anti-climatic.
Most members agreed it was one of the best and most complex and moving books we have read.
Thank you to the Bianchessis for their gracious hosting and to everyone who contributed and participated to the delicious repast and lively discussion.
Here is the list of upcoming titles:
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh September date and venue to be announced.
The Deadly Sisterhood by Leonie Frieda October date and venue to be announced
Title to be announced, November 20, at Anne Capanni’s
more information about the Barga Book Club can be found on their site