2.07.2017

A Separation by Katie Kitamura Review (Wherein I get on my soapbox about Gone Girl comparisons.)

A Separation by Katie Kitamura
Publisher: Riverhead Books (February 6, 2017)
Description from the publisher:
This is her story. About the end of her marriage. About what happened when Christopher went missing and she went to find him. These are her secrets, this is what happened...
A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it's time for them to separate. For the moment it's a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she's not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.
A story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation is about the gulf that divides us from the lives of others and the narratives we create for ourselves. As the narrator reflects upon her love for a man who may never have been what he appeared, Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on the brink of catastrophe.

Alas, I think I went a little crazy in requesting ARCs at the beginning of the year and should have been more discerning as to what I might enjoy, versus what has been getting a lot of hype. This was an intriguing debut, but not a book to my liking. 

One review called it the 'literary Gone Girl.' Just to reiterate here, I enjoyed Gone Girl. I thought it was clever, suspenseful, and masterfully elicited strong emotions from all who read it. Nearly THREE YEARS have passed since it's release. Can we please stop with the Gone Girl comparisons as marketing ploy? I don't think I'm alone here in being tired of this, and I feel as if it's actually detracting from the greatness of Flynn's work. In every instance, I find that the book being compared does not live up to Gone Girl. How does that reflect on the original work? The things that made Gillian Flynn's book great (excruciating suspense, clever plotting, multiple narrators) were not present in A Separation. Okay, rant over.

Now, that is not to say great things were lacking in this novel - there were some searing observations about human nature, and Kitamura masterfully set an evocative scene of a sleepy seaside town in Greece. I did a fair bit of highlighting:

"The effect was not a new candidness or verisimilitude to the photographs that proliferated-on our phones, computers, on the Internet-but rather the opposite: the artifice of photography had infiltrated our daily lives. We pose all the time, even when we are not being photographed at all."
"One of the problems of happiness-and I'd been very happy, when Christopher and I were first engaged-is that it makes you both smug and unimaginative."

It was certainly smart, but it felt detached. Much of the prose was languid and lacking urgency or emotion, in what seemed like a rather urgent and emotional situation!  I prefer a plot driven narrative and some emotional pull, so I should have steered clear when it was lauded as written with "exquisitely cool precision." As I said, there were some astute observations that really made me think, but nothing that I would describe as beautiful prose. If this is to be compared to any recent novel, I'd say it most resembles Fates and Furies: a cerebral, sociological study of a marriage that was also critically acclaimed. I can SEE the admirable qualities in this book, but they are not for me. However, if you enjoyed Fates and Furies, you might really enjoy the tone and character analysis in A Separation.

Many thanks to Riverhead for an advance copy for my honest review!


4 comments:

  1. I agree completely about Gone Girl! It's to the point where I actively avoid books that have that comparison- which is not necessarily fair because it's lazy publicists who blurb it that way not that author.

    Thank you for this review! I was on the fence about this book and while I loved Fates & Furies I think this is one I can wait on.

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    1. Right? I always wonder how the author feels about the publicists...

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  2. I loved this book and also was furious about the GG comparison...it was nothing like GG! Luckily, before I read it, I'd seen the comparison and heard someone say it was completely off base, so had appropriate expectations going in.

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    1. Thankfully, I hadn't actually seen the GG comparison until after reading it. But, I DID read it described as a mystery, which I also think was misleading!

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