by Chloe Aridjis
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 moments before reaching the suffragette Mary Richardson as she took a blade to one of the gallery's masterpieces on the eve of the First World War.
After nine years there, Marie begins to feel the tug of restlessness. A decisive change comes in the form of a winter trip to Paris, where, with the arrival of an uninvited guest and an unexpected encounter, her carefully contained world is torn open.
Asunder is a rich, resonant novel of beguiling depths and beautiful strangeness, exploring the delicate balance between creation and destruction, control and surrender.
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
I love books set in museums, and that discuss art and history, and the idea of the this young woman's story being caught up in the history of the museum made me eager to read this one. Marie is actually a complicated character in the guise of a rather apathetic one. She appears to have little ambition, few close relationships with either males or females, and little personality. However I felt that she secretly harboured bigger hopes and dreams, but was too paralyzed by her own fears and self-doubts to pursue them.
She passes her time at the museum on quiet contemplation of the artwork, but is drawn to their faults; the way the paint cracks over time, the painting that was attacked by a suffragette. Marie felt drawn to the outcasts and misfits, and spent her evenings creating landscapes on eggshells, and waiting for the moment she would notice the landscapes begin to decompose. As a reader, her paralysis when it came to affecting change in any area of her life was particularly frustrating at times. When invited to Paris by her friend Daniel, she needs a day to think over the invitation. Then she spends her time there ensuring that nothing passes between them, until someone arrives and Daniel's attention is diverted elsewhere.
The novel is beautifully written, and a cursory reading won't unveil the layers of meaning underscoring each seemingly insignificant decision or action that Marie takes. Reading below the surface reveals a bit of a rebellious soul in Marie, longing for action and excitement, but only if she can't witness it from the outside. The novel is understated but rich in layers, and will be enjoyed by someone willing to take their time and tie the loose ends together. There are no big action scenes, and no grand finale here, so if you need your stories wrapped up in a neat package to be satisfied, this may not be the book for you. If you like to dig a little deeper, there is a lot here to enjoy.
Rating: A Good Read
A different style from most bestsellers, but an interesting and enjoyable read. This would make a good book club book. A quick read, and I think people will either love the understated style or hate it.
I received a complimentary copy of this title from NetGalley & the publisher in return for an honest review.