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 impressive. Lyrical in it’s style, yet in places powerful, I can recommend it highly for this alone.
A number of proper reviews have called this book ‘subtle.’ That’s usually a pointer towards ‘not a lot happens and it’s all overly pretentious’. And to a point that’d be right. The scenes with Marie’s artwork fit into this bracket and left me cold (and bored). Also, to some degree, the lengthier description of Daniel’s poetry. But then please do bear in mind that I am an insensitive brute.
But at the same time as I was growing frustrated with these parts of the story, the enjoyment came from watching the slow shift in Marie’s relationships with other people and the tensions that arose as she attempted to keep everything in its order. From her flatmates - current and former - occupying her dingy London accommodation (wonderfully described) to her fellow guard friend Daniel and his various associates, to the paintings she guards by day, I was just waiting for something in her to crack. The craquelure of life, baby. These are the points where the book excels.
Marie is clearly a worldly woman in her own way. Why then does she live the life of a semi-recluse? Will she manage improve her lot by the end of the book?
Coming in at 190 pages, there is no doubt that Chloe Aridjis has got some serious skill. The whole thing is concise with not a word wasted. For such a short novel it gives the feeling of the slow inexorable drudgery of life. And there, perhaps is why I can’t mark it higher. I’ve got enough drudgery in my own world.