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A Separation by Katie Kitamura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First, if you are expecting a page-turning psychological thriller (as I was) don’t buy this book. ‘A Separation‘ is certainly unsettling and makes you feel awkward (and at times manipulated), but not a lot happens. It reminded me very much of Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse‘, where it takes a decade or so to actually reach the lighthouse and most of the book happens in the head of the characters in a stream-of-consciousness style outpouring.
So it’s not a plot driven novel and more of a thought piece driven by an often unlikeable narrator, who someone how convinces us to listen along in her headspace as she unravels the disappearance of her marriage. Then a murder. Then an awkward future with her ‘in-laws’.
A Separation is narrated in first person by a wife/daughter-in-law and we readers listen-in as she unfolds truths, half-truths and discoveries about the life of her husband (and herself). But we realise by the end we don’t know anything we haven’t been told by someone who is frequently not honest.
The book has no closure, no neat endings, no complete truths, and no real way of knowing. It is filled with relatives we don’t fully understand and we are forced (even though we could say no) to spend time with people we don’t fully trust or like. Sounds a bit like life doesn’t it?
I gave it 4 stars because the writing is exceptional and even days later I’m still thinking about this book, and what kept me turning the page. If I work that out I’ll update this review.
WARNING: stop reading if you don’t want spoilers.
PLOT SUMMARY: Daughter-in-law (DIL) is contacted by mother-in-law (DIL) looking for her son. DIL doesn’t know where he is and fails to tell her they’ve been separated for more than 6 months and she is already living with someone else. MIL sends DIL to a remote village-style ocean resort in Greece to look for him. She goes. MIL pays. DIL hangs around the out-of-season deserted resort waiting for husband to return from a sight-seeing trip. Tension. Finds out husband has been fraternising with at least one of the just-past-teen resort staff. More tension. No sign of husband. Tension. Hires driver to visit local ‘sites’ to kill time. Lies to driver and assumes her husband’s research project which escalates into a full series of untruths ultimately resulting in the driver’s elderly aunt being forced into a chilling display of grief and sorrow. Husband turns up dead. Bashed to death. No suspects. Suspicions cast. MIL and husband (FIL) arrive in Greece. FIL seems to be the only one with tears. DIL goes through affects. Post-teen lover and driver hover in and out of the story creating more tension. Investigation is botched. No one seems to do anything about it. Everyone goes home. DIL inherits $3 million dollars but will spend the rest of her life cow-towing to her not-anymore-but-always-will-be in-laws. Tension. Live-in lover left as unsatisfied as the rest of us.
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