I didn’t pick this book up because it sounded like a good mystery or something that could fool me; the description on the back of the book was enough to tell me what was going to happen. I was more interested in the way everything was uncovered than the mystery of it. I would say half the book was storytelling and half of it was straight up monologue, some philosophical some rambling. I don’t like books that ramble, and this one – I felt – did more than it’s fair share of that. It probably could have been a long short story, at most half its length to really trim it down to what needed to be in it and make it in any way mysterious/suspenseful. It also went off on some unnecessary tangents that never played a part in the story.
The only reason it got two stars from me instead of one is that the few parts that kept my attention were well written and some were very original in concept. There were a couple of psychological concepts that were well described, so I appreciated those, too.
Sections towards the end of the book were clumsy and wordy, and it felt like this happened because the author was trying desperately to cover everything the reader could possibly wonder so that he didn’t get criticized for missing anything. It ended up the opposite. He covered too much in the General’s second question to Konrad to the point that he stated the point of the question clearly, jumped over it, overexpanded the issue and caused the need to reread the section over and over again just to figure out what the question really was, then went back to the original question, then the whole process all over again. That was very frustrating.
Luckily this book wasn’t so long that I regret the time spent on it, but I wouldn’t read another of Márai’s books. His style is not for me.