Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa
Berta Isla and Tomás Nevinson meet in Madrid. Young and in love, they quickly decide to spend their lives together – never suspecting that they will grow to be total strangers, both living under the shadow of disappearances.
Tomás, half-Spanish and half-English, has an extraordinary gift for languages and accents. Leaving Berta to study at Oxford, he catches the interest of a certain government agency, and its mysterious agent, Bertram Tupra. Tomás is determined to evade the agent’s attentions but his fate is sealed by an escalating series of events that will affect the rest of his life – and that of his beloved Berta. Finishing his time at Oxford, he returns to Madrid to marry her, already knowing that the life they planned has been lost forever.
About the Author
Javier Marías is a Spanish author, translator, and columnist. He is one of Spain’s most celebrated novelists, and his work has been translated into over 40 languages including English. He has received numerous literary prizes including the International Dublin Literary Award in 1997 for A Heart So White and the Prix Formentor in 2013. Javier Marías lives and works in Madrid.
Berta Isla is a complex and layered novel. It offers an exploitative psychological story of the wedding of Berta Isla and her charming husband Tomás Nevinson, as well as an unexpected approach to a spy novel. Berta Isla and Tomás meet at school and become a couple. Tomás is Anglo-Spanish and has a special talent for languages. He gets recruited by MI6 during his studies at Oxford. He returns to Madrid as an embassy employee without Berta. Suspecting his double life, we get typical Marías ingredients: waiting, uncertainty, self-deception and not knowing one another. The novel is written in a beautiful style using winding sentences. The atmospheric setting in time, the psychological observations and the meandering rhythm of the story enchanting. Openbare Bibliotheek Brugge, Belgium