Thus Bad Begins: A Novel
When young Juan de Vere gets a job, it isn’t long before he grows to revere his slightly eccentric boss, film director Eduardo Muriel. Yet there are facets of Muriel’s life that Juan struggles with, such as Muriel’s unexplained hostility towards his lovely, mild-mannered wife, Beatriz, and his insistence that Juan investigate unsettling rumors surrounding Dr. Jorge Van Vechten, the family doctor and friend. Eager to please, Juan begins his investigation, but his searching only brings more questions. Why is Eduardo so cruel to his wife? What is the connection between Beatriz and Van Vechten? The answers, when they come, are a study in the small cruelties we’re often helpless to inflict on the ones we love.
Marias’ writing is snow-globe beautiful, glittering and floating as you read, which is what makes me so upset that I’m unable to give Thus Bad Begins five stars. The words are flawless crystal, but their telling is like rusty iron–clunky and unattractive. The narrative continuously dives into tangential asides that sometimes go on for a page or more and often left me struggling to remember what the original conversation, or point, had been. I loved the prose, but the continuous tangents made it a fight to stay in the story.
Javier Marias, Margaret Jull Costa