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3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  367 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Marie's job as a guard at the National Gallery in London offers her the life she always wanted, one of invisibility and quiet contemplation. But amid the hushed corridors of the Gallery surge currents of history and violence, paintings whose power belies their own fragility. There also lingers the legacy of her great-grandfather Ted, the museum guard who slipped and fell m ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Feb 07, 2015 Kinga rated it it was amazing
There is a brilliant review of this book on amazon. It says:

“There are silly mistakes when talking about the gallery :
There is no gallery 88
There is no gallery 67
Human Resources haven’t been based in the Gallery building for the last 10 years.
Human Resources have nothing to do with picture movements and informing staff”

Other than that, the reviewer deems the book ‘enjoyable’. The reason this review is brilliant is that it is almost metaliterary – it feels like it’s a review written by one of the
A vague sense of foreboding persistently stalks the reader on every page of this narrative, as if something potentially dangerous and forbidding awaits one at the turn of the next page. But then the pages fly by, nothing truly nefarious ever materializes and the feeling finally settles in that the substance of this narrative lies not in a likely event of cosmic importance or even in the anticipation of its occurrence but in the minutiae a reader usually glosses over. Like the everyday happenings ...more
Aug 26, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Cheondoists
Shelves: fiction

This novel is too precious. Or, trying too hard. Examples: The protagonist, an intelligent 30-something woman slumming (let's be honest) as a museum guard, has a hobby creating diorama landscapes in which dead moths feature. Her best friend, also a museum guard but at a different gallery, has a severe limp. He acquired this limp mystically, having gone to a Hungarian hypnotist for severe headaches. The hypnotist cured him of his headaches, but the permanent limp replaced them the same day.

This i
Rebecca Foster
Nov 03, 2014 Rebecca Foster rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-bookbag
This is one of those very beautiful novels where very little seems to happen. Marie is a museum guard at London’s National Gallery, following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, who was on duty in 1914 when a suffragette vandalized a painting. Aridjis ponders art, decay and the traces ordinary people leave behind.

Like the protagonist of Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station, Marie is an almost anonymous wanderer. She curates other people’s stories, but barely seems to have her own. Inst
Sep 22, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing
I have already posted a quick note on this book when I read it a few months ago--by far the best literary novel I've read in ages and by far the best novel full stop I've read this year. I hope it gets some traction in America (it has gotten good notices in the United Kingdom), and if you like anything you read about Asunder I urge you to read the book.

As I said when I wrote something about this book elsewhere: It is brilliant.

It is a slight book in terms of plot. Marie, the narrator, works at
Oct 21, 2013 Duncan rated it liked it
This is one of those books where I’m not sure if I’m being incredibly harsh with my rating, or whether it really is a case of style over substance. It just didn’t manage to fully grab me as I read it, my interest kept drifting in and out But then again at the same time I find myself still thinking about it now and wondering whether or not I’ve been unfair with my judgement.

There is no doubt that Asunder is a beautifully written book. Some of the description and imagery conjured up is seriously i
Jan 11, 2015 Daniel rated it really liked it
A short take:

I loved this book for its quiet, intimate story that drifted from thought to thought like the meandering museum visits Marie witnesses day after day. What a full and wonderful experience I had reading this on a winter's Sunday evening on the couch with my family and cups of coffee for company.

More thoughts:

I very much like how un-dramatic the story is, which completely vies with the "read-on" breathlessness of the book's silly description on the back (which I only read upon finishi
Lorri Steinbacher
Oct 09, 2013 Lorri Steinbacher rated it liked it
I felt like the book had promise that it didn't fulfill. The writing was lovely, but I felt that it was a trifle dull. I just didn't engage with Marie at all, felt that the Jane and Lucian storyline could have been more developed. Didn't see how they were relevant to the story except as foils to highlight Marie's character (Jane) or to shed (a very little) light on her past (Lucian). The whole thing felt stalled to me.
Sep 28, 2016 Bachyboy rated it liked it
I am working my way through the Whangaparaoa library and am currently on authors starting with A. This was a strange book centred around a woman who works as a museum guard at the National Gallery in London. It seems to suit her and a lot of the book focuses on her invisibility and thoughts. Not a lot happens but I did enjoy the description of the paintings although I would go stark crazy doing that job.
Feb 02, 2016 Hesper rated it liked it
Technically complex, substantively threadbare.
Nov 10, 2013 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, net-galley
I received this as an electronic advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

Barely reaching 200 pages, "Asunder" is a short novel and a quick read, but it will linger in your memory long after completing those pages. Its length is ideal, because it has precious little plot to stand upon, and a character who is largely defined in her commitment to inaction. Instead, Aridjis fills her pages with richness of mood, with a style that ends up conveying themes in place of a plot that would
Jun 04, 2013 Julie rated it it was amazing
Asunder was quiet and goofy and a little sad, but then the end was so victorious in its understated way that I'm still soaring over it. I feel like I know a secret.

As a rule, I don't mark my books since it's a sullying I can't abide. But then, I was on page 6, and I was so taken by a sentence of such acuity that I couldn't bear not being able to find it again on command. So I turned down the corner. And I kept turning down corners.

Chloe Aridjis must be some kind of genius for putting voice to t
Sep 01, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Chloe Aridjis' first novel, Book of Clouds, featured a lyrical, deeply engaging narrative voice but ultimately left me feeling like it hadn't quite "gone" anywhere (which wasn't dissatisfying). Her second, Asunder, is equally if not more lush in its prose but this time the novel — while hardly plot- or event-driven —does more with the many images, ideas, and tensions set in motion. Narrator Marie works as a museum guard in London's National Gallery, a life she has chosen for the way it allows he ...more
Aug 10, 2013 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Solitary, Constrained Life

Marie works as a guard in the National Gallery in London. Although most guards are older, often retirees, Marie is young. She's been working as a guard in galleries since she dropped out of university. It's all she wants to do. She comes by the desire through her great-grandfather, who was also a guard in the gallery and narrowly missed stopping a suffragette from taking a knife to Venus, one of the gallery's masterpieces.

On a trip to Paris with her best friend, Dani
Renee Leech
Jan 28, 2014 Renee Leech rated it really liked it
This is a gentle journey of a book that doesn't fail to be emotionally moving. If you have ever wondered about the life of museum guards, this book will provide a soulful speculation. Though she is young, the main character has accepted the static quality of her life, spending time creating eggshell works of art when she is not spending time with her one friend, an eccentric poet and fellow museum guard. A trip to Paris with this friend eventually changes her view of her life.

One of the things
Mar 01, 2014 Geoff rated it it was amazing
I have been looking forward to reading Chloe Aridjis' second novel, Asunder, ever since I read her Book of Clouds (previously reviewed). The language of both novels is stunning. Aridjis has a fabulous eye for description. Asunder follows a young woman who is a guard at London's National Gallery. At points, I thought she was connecting with Colin Whitehead's The Intuitionist and the warring factions of elevator inspectors. Jane, the museum guard, is displaced, out of step much like Tatiana in the ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Angelina rated it it was ok

So the Guardian's review said, "Strange, extravagant, darkly absorbing...thrills with energy." Where? What energy? Did I read the same book?
While the writing was well done and there was an undercurrent of something building, absolutely nothing came of it. The only positive I can say for this book was that it was a quick 192 pages. I wanted something to happen! There were moments where I thought,"Aha! Something is about to go down! Finally, the plot is going somewhere!" but I was let down every
Barry Levy
Jul 10, 2015 Barry Levy rated it it was ok
"Don't judge a book by its cover." Well apparently I did. The striking cover, a damaged female portrait, the parchment-like feel of the pages and the suggestion that this short novel would be both psychological and disturbing, dealing with art and reality, built up my expectations for an intriguing read. Unfortunately the book was a disappointment, as drab and unpleasant as its female protagonist whose obsession with destruction and decay disgusted me. And the author's final image of a street ar ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Rebecca rated it liked it
Beautifully written, atmospheric and evocative. However, I felt it suffered from the absence of a clear narrative thread. But I also think that feeling that proves that I'm the kind of person that likes my novels ham-fisted, with a PLOT and BACK STORY and A CLEAR CONCLUSION. Perhaps this novel was too smart for me; I kept feeling like I was trying to put my arms around fog. The writing is wonderful, did I mention that? But--what the...?
Wendy Feltham
May 03, 2016 Wendy Feltham rated it it was amazing
Reading Asunder is such an unusual experience, and remembering the characters and plot is much like remembering a dream. This novel is a series of vignettes accompanied by beautiful descriptive language. The narrator Marie is a museum guard at the National Gallery in London, observing paintings and visitors with a mix of tedium and passion. Her grandfather did the same job for 40 years. As Marie follows the routines of her life, and then its unexpected turns, her journey becomes life-changing.
Kyle Muntz
Feb 13, 2014 Kyle Muntz rated it really liked it
A very good book. Subdued but not detached, subtly unreal and always hinting at something just off the edge of the page. It's more a mood than a novel, but a compelling one, and sometimes deeply philosophical. Aridjis reminds me of a more accessible John Banville or Amelia Gray, though there are shades of a (very European) Murakami in her focus on daily life.

May 28, 2014 James rated it really liked it
What's it about? Being a museum guard? The male gaze? Crazy rich people? It felt like a feminist Camus.
Jul 07, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was about nothing, and yet about everything.
Oct 13, 2013 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I really wanted to love this book. I visited London over the summer and the National Gallery was one of the favorite museums I visited while I was there. So I thought reading a book about a woman who was a guard at that museum would be really cool. While the London aspect of this book was awesome, the rest just fell flat for me.

As a guard in London's National Gallery, Marie is used to living a life of invisibility. After nine years, though, Marie's starting to want something more. So when the c
Oct 20, 2013 Ugh rated it liked it
I hadn't intended to ever read anything else by Chloe Aridjis after having not really liked Book of Clouds, but Asunder was suggested for a book club, and when I discovered that it was about someone who works at the National Gallery, my reluctance transformed into enthusiasm.

I did like Asunder more than BoC. Whereas I rounded up from 2.5 stars for BoC, no rounding was necessary here. To me BoC felt very forced in the way it read, and I didn't buy Aridjis' way of putting things. But I thought Asu
Christopher Everest
A beautifully written prose-poem of a book. I think I might need to re-read it a couple of times to get over that feeling of "waiting for something to happen". Or at least to see if that feeling is a product of the writing. It again links many of the themes I most like to read about - Art, Creativity, Employment, History, Relationships but I would have liked MORE. I wanted the main character to actually Create something artistically instead of simply commenting on it. Again perhaps that is the p ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Jordan rated it really liked it
I can't think of many novels with this little plot that I've enjoyed this much. Not much happens for the first half of the book, and it's still not exactly a page-turner when her routine is interrupted for a trip to Paris in the second half of the book. And, I felt the weakest part was when activity actually picked up a bit in the last ten or so pages. What surprised me was that I never even cared if anything happened. In fact, when she decided to take a trip to Paris, I was a little disappointe ...more
Oct 31, 2013 Angela rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, literature
10 Stars! The best literary stunner I've read this year. Deeply textured and intricately layered, this literary gem is destined to become a classic studied by high school and college students everywhere.

Marie works as a guard for the National Gallery in England. Her great grandfather was also a guard at the same museum. His story of his inability to stop an angry suffragette from vandalizing a painting haunted him forever.

Marie spends most of her life content to be an observer except for the ti
Robert Palmer
Feb 10, 2014 Robert Palmer rated it really liked it
Just try to imagine the dullness of a job just standing all day watching people at the art institute of Chicago, that's what Marie does at the national gallery of London. Marie's Great Grand Father , Ted worked at the national gallery in the 1900s. Their are many, very many,strange people popping up in the narrative as the story moves ever so slowly along, somewhat like a "Brookner" novel , but this novel is so much better. Marie has one close friend,Daniel, an unpublished poet,who sends his poe ...more
Apr 23, 2014 Shannon rated it really liked it
The quality of the prose in this gets an A+. However, without it, this story would have been utterly dull. That being said, Asunder is about a character who has withdrawn -- who doesn't allow herself to want big things -- it's like she lives inside the paintings (and is never the painter) that she guards at the National Gallery. Her gradual awakening is not dramatic. There are small upsets (an old lover reappeared, a face peering in the window, an unromantic trip with an old friend) that gradual ...more
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Chloe Aridjis was born in New York and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico City. After receiving a BA from Harvard, she went on to receive a PhD from Oxford University. A collection of essays on Magic and Poetry in Nineteenth-century France was released in 2005. Her first novel, Book of Clouds, followed in 2009, winning the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France.
More about Chloe Aridjis...

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