Today I finished the first volume of 'Your Face Tomorrow,' the trilogy by the Spanish author Javier Marias. (I began a month or so ago with 'All Souls,' which serves as a prologue.) As much as I loved 'All Souls,' this work tested my patience (which is saying something) although it could be a function of the introductory nature of a first volume. Here we return to the same narrator as in All Souls, but it is several years later; he has returned from Spain (where his marriage has fallen apart) to live in London, where he accepts a job with a quasi-governmental organization in which his primary responsibility is to watch people during interviews and then offer his reactions to his superiors, who consider him very perceptive for reasons that are never really explained. (This is basically a job I want, btw!)
This is pretty much the extent of the plot, which is not developed further, although Marias does end the book with a bit of cliffhanger (relatively speaking) about the identity of a person the narrator encounters much much earlier in the book. But to get to the exciting parts, the reader must slog through some seriously weighty digressions -- about the Spanish Civil War, about the campaign of the British government to silence its people during World War II, about the different people the narrator sees interviewed in his job, about a mysterious spot of blood on the floor -- which are all (potentially) interesting and written about in Marias' beautiful prose and with moments of great psychological insight (though usually of a broad nature, as opposed to any one character), but which often have an expository feel and, most trying of all, may or may not have anything to do with a larger plot, the outlines of which are fleeting at best. Also unsatisfying from my perspective was that the gay themes of 'All Souls' are completely absent here, to the point where this absence raised a red flag for me. (Namely with regard to one gay character in 'All Souls' who's now dead but whose secret brother plays a major role in this volume; there are many discussions about this character, but no explicit reference made to his non-heterosexuality, which seems odd given the narrator's earlier examination of the issue.)
That said, I still recommend this book and will definitely keep reading the trilogy, with the hope that Marias will give me a little more structure in the next volume, to help keep me turning pages as though I'm reading a novel and not a book of history.