I became aware that I had finished this book after I read the last word, me, on the last page, although of course it wasn’t the actual physical last page, for there were three blank pages, blank, that is, except for the publisher’s web address on the actual, physical last page, a result of the printing process, which puts several pages onto the two sides of a folio at the same time, the sheet then being folded into a signature, a name it derives from the letter or number, or the combination of letters and numbers, printed at the foot of the first page (and sometimes on subsequent leaves of a section) as a guide to the bookbinder in the process of gathering, and thus sharing its origin, as a mark, with the more usual use of signature, or John Hancock, the signatures, after binding, being cut to release the pages themselves, at least in a modern book, unlike older ones that required you to cut the pages yourself, a job for which a sword, even a short stabbing sword, or long dagger, a cinquedea, would probably be overkill. Putting aside the urge to count personal pronouns in the text, to determine, falsely, as it happens, whether the author, or rather the narrator, was an egomaniac, I focussed instead on the indisputable fact that, while I had apparently finished the book, I had not entirely finished the trilogy, the full arc of the story, of which this was the middle section, denoting, perhaps, that a certain balance or equilibrium or straightforwardness might have been expected to infuse it, an expectation that was confounded when I considered what had actually happened, or rather what the narrator had told us had happened, over the course of its 339 pages. A woman asked a favour and a man was soundly beaten up for reasons that we can only guess at, or invent, and hope that perhaps all will explained when we reach volume 3, which given that it has taken six long months to move from Volume 1 and muster the strength to face Your Face Tomorrow 2: Dance and Dream could be a little while from now. But then, that too would be as nothing compared to the playful way in which the author Javier Marías, and that is quite probably his real name, or at least the one he habitually uses while writing books of this nature, leaves a man head down in a toilet bowl for several long chapters during which the narrator reminisces about the nature of violence as he heard about it from his father, leaving us, the readers, head down in admiration for his ability to use three words, utterances, even phrases, where one might have served a lesser writer.

My rating: 4 out of 5

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