You could actually put just about all of Marias’ books in this spot. (I’ve read 5 of them this year, counting Your Face Tomorrow as one novel and counting Manana en la batalla piensa en mi, which I’m 2/3 through and must be the longest Spanish-language book I’ve ever read.) I’ve come to love the work of Javier Marias this year, but if I were to ding him for something it’d have to be that his style can be a little loose at times. Part of this is, I think, just a matter of differences of opinion–Marias likes that maximalist kind of prose where he lets his words stream on for pages and pages, and I prefer novels that pare back to a nice arid essentiality.
All Souls stands out in my mind for being Marias’ minimalistic novel. Aside for some short stories and novellas, it’s the leanest, tightest work of Marias’ I read this year.
It also stands out for having the most successfully complex structure. Other books of Marias’ that I read tend to have a fairly straightforward structure, perhaps enlivened somewhat by lengthy digressions here and there, but All Souls actually makes structural jumble part of its artifice. It’s a form that Marias works quite well, though one it looks like he won’t be returning to any time soon (All Souls was an early book, and his recent ones have not been nearly so structurally complex).
But at any rate, Marias is definitely a major writer, one of a clear originality that asks you to set aside lesser concerns and grapple with his books on the highest level. If you haven’t tried him yet, do so next year!