Marie, the narrator of Chloe Aridjis's Asunder, has been a guard at London's National Gallery for 10 years. She lives with her flatmate, Jane, in Islington, enjoying occasional nights out with Daniel, a fellow guard and earnest, unpublished poet. In the privacy of her room, she creates miniature "artistic" worlds of her own out of eggshells, dead moths and bits of broken glass. Her needs are few, her routines predictable.

Aridjis is something of a genius in her ability to enrich the ordinary with epiphanies rendered in deceptively short and simple prose. Marie's world of work and her flat may be circumspect, but she lives large in the world of her mind and imagination. Surrounded by great art, talkative international visitors and instructive curators and restorationists, she can eavesdrop and observe life in its most profane and sacred moments. 

Asunder is not a novel driven by plot or dialogue. It meanders, much as Marie does through her assigned museum rooms. She goes out with Daniel when Jane's habits become too annoying. She concludes that a life is like a painting that goes from "being a thing of beauty to a thing of decaying beauty to a thing of decay." She destroys her miniatures and quits her job. What next? Her only answer is "new subjects and new verbs... my days would have something like a new vocabulary." In this little gem of a novel, Aridjis takes on the troubling questions of life and quietly works her way to the best answers she can find. --Bruce Jacobs

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