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Asunder

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  539 ratings  ·  103 reviews
Asunder is a rich, resonant novel of beguiling depths and beautiful strangeness, exploring the delicate balance between creation and destruction, control and surrender.

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 his
...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  539 ratings  ·  103 reviews


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Kinga
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pub-2013
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
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Samadrita
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
Rebecca
Sep 24, 2013 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
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Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is the prose I love to read. It is varied and interesting. Unfortunately, this was not the book I anticipated based on the GR description and I feel as if that great writing was wasted. Still, I kept reading, ready to see where the author would take me.

It is told in the first person by a woman who is perhaps the most passive character in all of literature. She is perfectly suited to her job as a guard at the British National Museum, where she looks and watches day after day. The book doesn'
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Lobstergirl
Aug 25, 2015 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
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Aubrey
4.5/5

I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over my shelves, combining and recombining in an effort to filter out the noise and narrow down to the work best fit for my current frame of mind. The last year or so has been devoted to challenges in combination with bibliographic completionist tendencies, but now I am taking a turn towards the less well regarded side of things, specifically books with a rating of 3.7 or less. The success of this work cements that decision for the time being,
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Tim
Apr 18, 2013 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
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Story❤
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As subtle and beautiful as the wings of a moth. 4.5 stars.
Robert Wechsler
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mixed-lit
This is mostly a first-person exercise in storytelling characterized by excellent prose and a powerful feeling of violence underneath the surface (which only rises above the surface for a moment, and that moment is part of the novel’s present story (of the narrator herself), which is otherwise of little note). Some things about this short novel don’t work, and the narrator is yet another brilliant underachiever, but there are many wonderful stories and observations here, and the novel’s sensibil ...more
Duncan
Oct 15, 2013 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
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Lorri Steinbacher
Oct 09, 2013 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.
Angelina
Jan 24, 2014 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
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Daniel
Jan 11, 2015 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
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Barry Levy
Jul 04, 2015 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
Bachyboy
Sep 28, 2016 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.
Hesper
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Technically complex, substantively threadbare.
Nancy
Aug 10, 2013 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
...more
Olive
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. I loved the description and was looking forward to experiencing a story with an introverted woman as the main character. The only thing that I ended up being even remotely satisfied by was the quiet and almost eerie atmosphere that Aridjis painted. You could really feel Marie's restlessness and dissatisfaction with her unremarkable existence as a museum guard. Though I get why the plot wasn't very flashy, I found myself waiting for the story to actually begin. ...more
Rebecca
Feb 05, 2014 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
Jul 29, 2014 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 06, 2014 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.

James
Dec 31, 2013 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.
Emily
Jun 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was about nothing, and yet about everything.
Rebecca Hughes
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had never heard of Chloe Aridjis before I picked up this slender book in a sale box, but after reading it I have determined to now go on and consume all of her work. I was initially drawn to it by the setting: our protagonist, Marie, is a museum guard at the National Gallery. Not only is the National Gallery one of my favourite places in London, it also served to remind me of one of the happiest periods of my life working inside the Tate Britain, and I wanted to be subsumed again into the magi ...more
Kendra
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nothing really happens in this novel.
Some reviewers pointed out a bit of pretension here and there. That’s true, but not tritely so. I mostly sense a characterization of an intelligent, but awkward thirty-something year old woman with a tangled mess of her motivations, and lack of confidence. She’s only had arms-length friendships relationships for too long, it seems; stunted by observing from the outside but not interacting. Her fondest relationship description is with her grandfather, who had
...more
SundayAtDusk
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
In some ways Asunder reminded me of The Woman Upstairs. Both books had a woman protagonist, in the 30s-40s age group, who lived a somewhat regimented life. Both women were having thoughts that maybe it was time to change their lives. Both were artists who created miniature worlds. Both took a trip to France at the end of the story, where they both were jolted into realizing certain realities about their lives and their friendships--including one very important friendship. The lessons a reader mi ...more
Nick
I'm not quite sure how this odd little book wound up on my Kindle queue, but it did and I finally gave it a try. Marie is a museum guard whose drifts through her own life as listlessly as the patrons who pass her by every day in the rooms of London's National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. She has a roommate and an ex-roommate who hook up with each other right before the roommates take an ill-conceived weekend trip to a bed and breakfast. She has a poet friend, another museum minder, who offers he ...more
Tyler
Jan 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Sort of Sebald-ian in its meandering, digressive style, and with its use of deceptive listlessness and image rhymes that do the gluing together that conventional novels would employ plot for. Unlike Sebald, though, this novel’s first-person narration does a lot of basic narrating and “I did/saw this-that” but, in my opinion, not a lot of reflection and rumination, which puts a damper on the overall style because the book’s slow pacing is undercut by the straightforward (and at times boring) narr ...more
A Reader
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
A woman those work, as a museum guard, appears to offer her the life she always wanted, that of invisibility and quiet contemplation, surrounded by a world of beauty and heritage. It looks as she has withdraw from the foreground, "just like those distant bluish landscapes in old paintings, so discreet you only notice them later." But after nine years, she begins to feel the tug of restlessness. It’s not just the passivity of her profession, in a way it seems that the mythological figures in the ...more
Robert
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it
This short, quiet novel proved to be less engaging than the reviews, for me. The symbolic, metaphoric elements screamed 'snap zoom,' and left little room for surprise. The few dramatic moments mostly disappointed in not exploring ample opportunities for greater mysteries. While it was interesting to read the historic aspects of the paintings in the story, the most interesting section of the book was in the "About the Author" section. Turns out, Aridjis has a Ph.D. in 19th French poetry and magic ...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.

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