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A Separation

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A mesmerizing, psychologically taut novel about a marriage's end and the secrets we all carry.

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 and search for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she's not even sure if she wants to find him. Adrift in the wild landscape, she traces the disintegration of their relationship, and discovers she understands less than she thought about 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. A Separation is a riveting stylistic masterpiece of absence and presence that will leave the reader astonished, and transfixed.

231 pages, Hardcover

First published February 7, 2017

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About the author

Katie Kitamura

17 books842 followers
Katie Kitamura is the author of Gone to the Forest (2012) and The Longshot (2009), both finalists for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award. Gone to the Forest was named a best book of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Financial Times, Times Literary Supplement, and New Yorker online.

The recipient of a Lannan Foundation fellowship, Katie has written for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Wired, BOMB, and is a regular contributor to Frieze.

Her third novel, A Separation, will be published in 2017.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,106 reviews
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews33 followers
October 31, 2016
Oh...this is an interesting book. I didn't want to put the book down. It's also a little odd. The prose is somewhat hypnotic. The writing is crisp-undecorated-but striking.

A young woman receives a phone call from her mother-in-law wanting to speak to her son. She says she doesn't know where he is. Isabella is upset and has been trying to reach his cell phone for days. Last she talked to him --he mentioned that he and his wife were taking a trip to Greece.
Isabella then says, "well you are here in London, so he must have gone without you".
Isabella buys her daughter-in-law a plane ticket to go to Greece, and sends her to the hotel where her son said they were going.

No mention of the word "Separation" to the mother-in-law.... which has been going on for six months.

The young woman is suppose to bring Christopher back home to his mother.

I really don't want to give this story away -but I think for those readers who have enjoyed the writing of Julie Otsuka, and Vendela Vida will enjoy Katie Kitamura's writing. Plus... the mystery alone will have you turning pages.

Here's a excerpt to leave you with -- but is not a spoiler
"Of course, unavailability served a different purpose for a man, or at least a man like Christopher. For him, perhaps, the ring served to give him a longer leash, it was more difficult to make demands of a married man, however far things, he could always say, you knew from the start that I was married, you knew what you were getting into, it was plain as the ring on my finger. Perhaps each time he set out to roam--and I knew there had been plenty of such times, over the course of our short marriage--he had dug out his wedding ring, in order to feel more free. From the drawer in his desk, or from the leather case in which he kept his watches and billfold clips, I realized then that I didn't even know where he kept his ring".

I thought this slim book was terrific! Katie Kitamura is a gifted writer...whom I'd gladly read again.

I received this book as a gift. It comes out in February! I definitely recommend it to those who enjoy suspense-with a compelling storyline -skillfully written - with your own imagination doing a few somersaults with your own added thinking.

Profile Image for Carol.
325 reviews863 followers
March 21, 2017
A Separation is an exquisitely-written ride to nowhere. And we are riding sidecar with a main character who thinks alot, but -- even as we turn the last page -- still doesn't know what she wants. If writing is more important to you than plot, as it is for me, generally, this could be the novel for you. Don't say I didn't warn you, though.
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.6k followers
December 15, 2022
last week, i picked up and read a book solely because it was a work of literary fiction with a low average rating, something i do from time to time. in that book, one character makes a lengthy allusion to another (unnamed) book, comparing the plight of its protagonist to ours.

very shortly after i finished it, my library hold on this, which i knew basically nothing about beyond that it was a work of literary fiction with a low average rating, came in, and i read it.

it WAS the unnamed book that was alluded to in the book i'd just finished.

this is far and away the most interesting part of this experience to me.

other than that...

i loved the writing style and i found this interesting, which was kind of surprising because almost nothing happened and i'm guessing the low average rating (without ever reading reviews) has something to do with that.

but this was nowhere near as deep and compelling as the author's sophomore novel.

bottom line: magic!!! not the book. just my life.

tbr review

you see a book with a 2.99 average rating. i see an unpopular opinion opportunity
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
February 14, 2017
I'm between 3 and 3.5 stars here.

I've ranted previously about how much I dislike when books are marketed as "the next..." So rather than rant, let me get the record straight right off the bat: despite what you might have seen, Katie Kitamura's A Separation is not "...the literary Gone Girl of 2017." I liked the former a little more than the latter, but I didn't feel Kitamura's book was rooted in a mystery as Gillian Flynn's was, so if that's what you're looking for, this book isn't for you.

A woman and her husband have decided to separate after five years of marriage. But while they had both decided there was no chance they would reconcile, her husband, Christopher, asked that they keep their decision private, and perhaps hold off on actually moving forward with a divorce for a short while.

"Could we keep it between us? I had hesitated, it wasn't that I disagreed with the sentiment—the decision was still new at that point, and I imagined Christopher felt much as I did, that we had not yet figured out how to tell the story of our separation. But I disliked the air of complicity, which felt incongruous and without purpose."

Despite their decision, she is still surprised to receive a phone call from her mother-in-law, Isabella, saying she has been unable to reach Christopher. She is more surprised when she finds out that several weeks ago Christopher told his mother that the two of them were traveling to Greece, a decision obviously she was not aware of, nor was she intended to be included in. Isabella is concerned that she hasn't been able to reach her son, so she urges the woman to travel to Greece immediately and find him—ever the control freak, Isabella even paid for the flight.

When she arrives in Greece, she finds that he apparently hired a driver several days earlier to travel, and didn't return when he said he would. No one is sure where he is but she imagines he is off gallivanting around somewhere, perhaps with another woman. She makes the decision to wait at the hotel a few days, and the things she discovers about Christopher while she waits for his return reinforces her desire to ask him a for a divorce as soon as possible.

When Christopher's parents arrive, she makes the decision to continue keeping her secret from them, despite her anger with Christopher for the detritus—physical and emotional—he left in his wake, and for putting her in this position in the first place. But once you have told a lie, how do you renege? Are you stuck living this lie for as long as those who've been told it remain in your life?

This was an intriguing, well-told, yet frustrating book. Thanks to the marketing hype, I definitely expected more of a mystery-type story, but this is really a meditation on how little we know the people we love, and how easy it is to put blinders on with regard to their faults until you reach a breaking point. It's also an examination of honesty, betrayal, estrangement, giving up your dreams to settle for what's in front of you, and how often we replicate the relationships of our parents.

Katie Kitamura is a really talented storyteller, despite the fact that she didn't really punctuate many of her longer paragraphs beyond commas and an occasional period. I just wish that in the end, this story offered more satisfaction than it did for me.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,020 reviews1,962 followers
April 7, 2017
For some reason, this book has a ton of holds on it at my local library and fairly middling reviews here on Goodreads. That’s not always an incongruous thing, but it still strikes me as odd. If people are clamoring to read something, I would expect it to have a generally positive response. This doesn’t and as someone who has a strong interest in book marketing [I work in marketing for academic books, but would love to pursue a career doing it for trade books], I’m incredibly fascinated by things like this.

I think the problem here is really bad marketing. People seem to be under the impression that this is for readers who liked Gone Girl and its legions of knock-offs. I’m not really where people are getting this idea from—the marketing copy on the book flap doesn’t draw the connection, though the headline of the review at NYTimes.com does and it was explicitly described that way on The Millions’ Most Anticipated List, but I’m not sure if that’s because Riverhead’s media kit described it that way or because the editors drew their own parallels.

Anyway, whoever’s drawing these parallels is doing readers a disservice. Can we please stop trying to push new books by hooking them onto trend wagons? It’s one thing to engage in reader’s advisory services and to draw connections where connections exist, but to do so solely for the benefit of trying to jump on a trend when those connections aren’t there is really frustrating to me. It’s lazy marketing, it’s a lazy way of writing a book review, and it’s ultimately more likely to lead to an otherwise okay book getting bad reviews from readers who just aren’t the right audience.

Most of the critical reader reviews of A Separation have focused on the fact that “nothing happens” in this book, and I think that’s a fair assessment…if you’re coming to this book expecting it to be plot-driven in the way a Gone Girl knock-off should be. And that’s why this book is absolutely, a million percent not a “literary Gone Girl.” It was never meant to be.

It’s the psychological exploration of an unnamed woman who has traveled to Greece because her semi-estranged husband has disappeared. The narrator and Christopher have not told anyone about their separation so the narrator is put into a weird position when Christopher’s mother calls to report her concern over Christopher’s recent lack of communication. Unwilling to admit that she didn’t know her husband had even been in Greece, the narrator makes the trip from England under the auspices of looking for him.

I should mention, though, that she doesn’t actually do a lot of looking. She asks the hotel clerks when he was last around, she wonders if locals that she meets might have met him—but she’s not exactly chasing clues or anything like that. Mostly, she's waiting. And she’s ruminating: on the state of their marriage and Christopher’s history of infidelity, why they kept the separation quiet, what her obligations are as only a sort-of wife, what kinds of interactions he might have had with the hotel staff. The narrator is cold, detached, almost unfeeling. She’s an unnamed woman who works as a literary translator because she likes that it enables her to be passive. That tells you most of what you need to know about this character.

The prose here is very interesting. It’s incredibly stream-of-conscious, relying more on commas than on periods and sentence fragments rather than complete thoughts. Notably, I think this is probably the first time I haven’t been irritated by the lack of quotation marks in a novel. It’s normally not my kind of jam, but I drank it up here. It’s thoughtful and deliberate, focusing more on symbolism and psychology than on tracing events that are happening.

I mean, really, I feel like this book is more suited to fans of Virginia Woolf than for fans of Gillian Flynn. There are some answers provided here, but they’re murky answers that befit the story Katie Kitamura seemed to want to tell as opposed to the satisfying sense of conclusion you get from an actual thriller being wrapped up. That’s because the answers weren’t really the point. The point is a character study of a woman you wouldn’t want to be friends with as she responds to being put into a weird position. To that end, I think this book succeeds. It’s really unfair to position this book as a thriller that will appeal to people who want a mass market mystery to be solved. This book has a meager rating largely because it’s being picked up by readers who are looking for a different kind of book and are feeling disappointed. I don’t think this is a great book, but I also don’t it’s a book that deserves a meager rating. I think it’s a pretty good and thoughtfully written book that deserved a much, much better marketing campaign.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,738 reviews14.1k followers
January 11, 2017
A young woman, eight years younger and separated from said husband, a man who is unable to remain faithful. She has agreed, on his request, to keep this a secret form the time being, not even letting his doting mother and father know. She is surprised to find out he has traveled to Greece, ostensibly to research his next book about mourning customs. This she learns when she receives a phone call from his mother, saying she was worried that she hasn't heard from him. To assuage his mothers fears and to ask for a divorce she travels to Greece.

A book that chronicles the disintegration of a marriage using the inner musings of our narrator. There is not much dialogue and what dialogue is there is related without quotation marks and often blends into the narrative. This writing is tight, finely expressed. I think I might have been more taken with this book if I had known what to expect. Whether it was my reading mood or my general mood, reading about the beginning, the middle and the end of this marriage, although there was somewhat of a mystery involved once our narrator gets to Greece, made for a very slow, albeit thorough reading experience. Since I am not a person that takes apart and muses over every significant event in my life, I really couldn't connect to this story nor this woman and her many repetitive thoughts.

Still, we are all different and I don't want to put off others from reading this story. As I said this is a finely drawn account of a marriage that is ending, it just didn't hold for this reader a large enough appeal. I am sure there is an audience out there form this book. So give it a chance and prove me right.

ARC from publisher.
Published February 7th.

Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,340 followers
March 20, 2017
A Separation was not what I expected, but I ended up liking it once I got in the right head space. As described, this is a book about infidelity and a marriage that falls apart. But what surprised me was the way in which the topic is approached. It's a very subjective meditative piece written from the perspective of the unnamed wife. Following her recent separation from her husband Christopher, she is called upon by her mother in law to go find her ex on a Greek Island. Once there, the narrator pieces together what Christopher has been up to while reflecting on their marriage and her current circumstances. There's something almost cold in the way in which the narrator evaluates and assesses every interaction, thought and feeling. But the lack of sentimentality allows for some interesting complicated emotions and insights. And just when I thought that this was a novel in which not much happens, something big does happen and the story and perspective pivot dramatically. As I write this review, I've talked myself into a 4 star rating. This won't be for everyone -- I certainly didn't particularly like any of the characters-- but I felt myself drawn in and interested. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,347 reviews4,863 followers
September 23, 2021

The unnamed narrator of 'A Separation' is a literary translator in London who's been separated from her husband Christopher for six months.

By mutual consent the couple haven't yet announced their estrangement, probably to keep the news from Christopher's interfering mother. This makes it awkward when Christopher's mother, Isabella, calls the narrator, anxious because she can't reach her son.

Christopher's been in Greece for several weeks, researching a book about mourning practices, and Isabella insists the narrator go there to find him. She even arranges for the narrator's plane ticket and hotel reservation. Feeling obligated, the narrator agrees to go, determined to tell Christopher she wants a divorce.

On the way to Greece's seaside village of Mani - where Christopher's staying in a luxurious hotel - the narrator learns that the area has recently been decimated by fire, and has few visitors. The narrator checks in to the oceanfront resort, which stands out in the bleak village.

The narrator is told her husband took a short trip and will be back any day. The narrator senses that the young desk clerk, Maria, is hostile to her - and suspects the girl has a crush on Christopher, who's handsome and charming.

The narrator settles in to wait for Christopher's return, but the days pass and he doesn't show up.

Meanwhile, the narrator walks around, reads, swims, sleeps, dines, and hires a local driver - Stefano - to show her the meager sights.

On impulse, the narrator lies and says SHE's studying funeral rites, and Stefano takes her to meet a professional mourner - which leads the narrator to meditate about death and dying.

The narrator also mulls over her history with Christopher, remembering how he romanced her, and imagining that he used the same seduction techniques on Maria.

After the narrator sees Maria have a dramatic confrontation with Stefano - and apparently reject his affections - she suspects the girl dreams of being with Christopher. To discover if Maria had an affair with her husband, the narrator invites the girl to dinner and asks if they slept together. Maria happily answers. She also, perhaps spitefully, orders the most expensive dishes on the menu - a lobster appetizer and a steak entrée. (LOL)

When information arrives that Christopher's been staying in a different village with another woman, Maria is very upset. The narrator, however, isn't surprised since Christopher has always been a serial philanderer.

Later, Christopher is found dead, and the police investigate. The narrator, however, keeps mum about possible culprits. She's also aware that she might be a suspect herself.

When Christopher's parents come to Greece the narrator has the opportunity to cogitate on the fact that Isabella (her mother-in-law) also had affairs throughout her marriage.

Isabella even knows about her son's proclivities, lamenting, 'he could never keep his dick in his pants.' Still - in a rather awkward scene - Isabella insists that the narrator affirm her love for Christopher.

The entire book is told from the point of view of the narrator, and - to be honest - I'm not quite sure what points she's making. Clearly the story is about marriage, honesty/dishonesty, infidelity, women wanting what's not good for them, and the need to move on. Other reviewers have different analyses, so maybe every reader sees something different.

Kitamura is a fine writer and the book is beautifully written, but I don't think it will appeal to everyone. The story meanders along, has a cerebral vibe, and lacks the drama/action seen in most popular fiction. Still, it's a compelling depiction of a woman dealing with a marriage gone bad (and an unexpected visit to Greece).

You can follow my reviews at http://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot.com/
Profile Image for Linda.
76 reviews172 followers
February 7, 2017
The protagonist talked continuously throughout the entire novel, only stopping, when I closed the book every few hours for a much needed break. Not one other character said a word. I never felt like I was reading--strange feeling to have, when you're holding a book in your hands.

The author took a physiological approach to her writing and dissected all aspects of every observation, e.g., thoughts, gestures, movements, feelings, turning an emotional situation into a sterile analysis.

Some might look at this author and see genius. Some critics did:

"Hemingway's returned to life-and this time, he's a woman." Tom McCarthy

"A stark, urgent, beautiful novel." Siri Hustvedt

For me, it's difficult to say much about too much being said about so little. Yes, this is the exact thought I was left with, when finishing the final page of "Separation."

I could not connect with the author's unique style of writing, but to those of you who want to read it, my recommendation would be to skip the book and purchase an audio version.
Profile Image for Taryn.
325 reviews299 followers
April 10, 2017
Between two people, there will always be room for failures of imagination.

3.5 Stars. The narrator receives an urgent call from her mother-in-law, wanting to know why her son Christopher isn't answering her calls during his travels in Greece. The narrator and her unfaithful husband have been separated for six months, but they've decided to keep it a secret for now. Rather than admit they've separated and that she isn't privy to her soon-to-be ex-husband's travels, the narrator agrees to travel to Greece and find him. The secret separation has complicated the narrator's life by causing her past and present to coexist. She intends to ask for a divorce when she finds him, but only his belongings are at the hotel. She decides to stay in Greece until he returns. The secret separation puts the narrator in a difficult spot and she considers dropping the pretense that they are still together.

As my life with Christopher began to recede into the past, everything that I learned about him—a meaningless detail from his new life, a revelation from his past one—was a source of potential discomfort, causing a pang of greater or lesser pain, or even occasional indifference. This was the process by which two lives were disentangled, eventually the dread and discomfort would fade and be replaced by unbroken indifference, I would see him in the street by chance, and it would be like seeing an old photograph of yourself: you recognize the image but are unable to remember quite what it was to be that person.

I liked A Separation, but I might've liked it more if it were part of someone's memoir. I was underwhelmed by the story, even though I knew to expect more of a character piece than a suspenseful mystery. There was such an eerie, tense atmosphere, that I was unsatisfied when it was simply ruminations on marriage and the end of a relationship. The story is slow-moving and introspective. The narrator is well-educated and reserved, which made her feel distant. The writing is beautiful and insightful, but the style may be bothersome to some readers. There aren't any quotation marks to differentiate dialogue, but the conversations are in short bursts. The biggest impediment to my reading comfort were the sentences within sentences. Em dashes everywhere!

The past is subject to all kinds of revision, it is hardly a stable field, and every alteration in the past dictates an alteration in the future. Even a change in our conception of the past can result in a different future, different to the one we planned.

The narrator travels from her home in London to the small fishing village of Gerolimenas, Greece. There's an ominous feeling in the air. It's the offseason and the area was recently ravaged by wildfires, so there aren't many tourists. While waiting for her husband's return, the narrator visits a church covered by layers of graffiti. Each layer is painted by a new conqueror but the old layers are still visible, leaving an "extraordinary...record of conflict." There's tension between the tourists and the locals. The employees at the hotel seem to be holding something back from the narrator, with their strange looks and careful wording. My favorite part of any story tends to be the interactions between characters, but most of this story takes place in the narrator's head. She works as a literary translator and her understanding of the complexity of language also applies to her understanding of people and their actions. I really enjoyed the narrator's astute, sometimes uncomfortable, observations about relationships. She’s constantly observing the people around her, interpreting them through their body language and vocal intonations. She imagines what might be going on in their lives with an enormous amount of detail.

Perhaps wife and husband and marriage itself are only words that conceal much more unstable realities, more turbulent than can be contained in a handful of syllables, or any amount of writing.

What led the narrator's previously happy marriage to this impasse? Alone at the hotel, she has plenty of time to think about the complexity of marital relationships and the undefined borders that result when a marriage ends. Despite everything that has happened between her and Christopher, she still feels a pull to him. She wonders how he will react when he sees her. Will he be apprehensive or hopeful? She explores the cruel gap between naive expectation at the beginning of a relationship and reality of living with another person long term. The end of her marriage makes her see the depth that aging and experience add to our perspective. She examines the roles of the mother, the wife, the mistresses in her husband's life. As more information about Christopher's life becomes known, she notices how "experience accumulated in haphazard places, the wrong bits of knowledge residing with the wrong parties." In her interactions with others, the unspoken social rules where "we pretend we do not know what we in fact do know" come into play. She's hyper aware of the illusions we uphold for the sake of others and ourselves. When the nature of her separation changes, all the pretending gets to be too much. She tries to properly portray her roles, but she second guesses her reactions and feels guilty for not behaving correctly.

At the time, I was like any young person looking at an old person—even if I was not that young, and nor was Christopher—and like any person who cannot believe that they will grow old, much less die, I could not believe that our marriage could become like [my in-law’s] marriage, much less fall apart completely….[Their marriage] might have been a terrible marriage, built on betrayal—although what was really meant by the word terrible, there were betrayals that looked unforgivable from the outside and that were nonetheless forgiven, and there were forms of intimacy that looked nothing like the name—but it was nonetheless a marriage. Whereas mine had ended….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.

In A Separation, things the narrator thought could never happen when she first met her husband actually occur. The telling was too cold and cerebral for my tastes, but it was a well-written look into the disintegration of a marriage. Many elements reminded me of other literary tales that feature dysfunctional marriages: The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty (woman travels to exotic locale after husband's betrayals, mostly in her head), Fates and Furies (ruminations on marriage), The Dinner (intellectual feel, uncomfortable observances), Listen to Me (tense atmosphere of a mystery, but actually a story about marriage).


I received this book for free from Netgalley and Serpent's Tail / Profile Books / Clerkenwell Press. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It's available now! 
Profile Image for Maria Bikaki.
794 reviews385 followers
April 25, 2018
Κριτική βιβλίου. Ναι μάλιστα. 1. Ωραίο εξώφυλλο. 2. Ωραίο εξώφυλλο. 3. Δε θυμάμαι ωραίο εξώφυλλο είπα;
Κιταμούρα Κ(ο)ίτα να γράψεις κανα βιβλίο της προκοπής και τα ξαναλέμε. Θανατηφόρα βαρετό.
Profile Image for Chaya.
406 reviews12 followers
February 12, 2017
The premise is promising as a mystery novel: a wife separated from her husband is enlisted to cross the ocean to find him on behest of his mother. However, what develops is less plot development and more an internal monologue, a treatise on the nature of relationships, love, and the ambiguities and ambivalences of separation. It has the makings of a nice Highsmithian mystery, with a slow build-up of what seem like clues to the husband's story -- a disheveled hotel room, an unsavory ad at the back of a literary magazine circled, an angry desk clerk, a shady cab driver -- but these fizzle out rather than lead to a great reveal. The narrator is a cold and over-intellectual navel-gazer, and the writing style is beyond pretentious. The absence of quotation marks is the newest favorite in post-modern fiction, but it serves to alienate the characters from the reader (the purpose here?) and confuse. Commas and run-on sentences are the norm, purporting to illustrate what? - the mind frame of the narrator? How cool and post-grammatical the author is? Here is a typical sentence:

"At first I thought it was her modesty, the question was abrupt and none too subtle, perhaps
she was affronted, it was more evidence of my erratic personality, Christopher might have complained of it, it was not surprising that he was running away from his hysterical and irrational wife -- but then, why would Christopher have mentioned me at all?"

There are no fewer than 6 independent clauses separated by commas here. Look, an occasional deviation from grammatical rules can enhance a novel and illustrate a personality, but run-ons like this dominated every single paragraph, and the effect is more to discombobulate the reader rather than help the reader engage with the characters. Grammar and writing style should be like well-applied makeup: unnoticeable yet enhancing the subject.
May 27, 2022
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3 ½ stars

Given its abysmal overall rating, it should not come as a surprise that A Separation is not the type of novel that will have a large appeal. While it bears many of the same elements and stylistic qualities as Intimacies, which is Katie Kitamura’s latest novel which I did not particularly care for, here, well, they kind of work. Similarly to Intimacies, A Separation is narrated by a nameless and nondescript female character. We never learn anything substantial about their backstories and their personalities remain blank. For some reason, in A Separation, this narrating voice works. Whereas reading Intimacies felt to me like an utter waste of my time, A Separation proved to be a much more thought-provoking novel.

A Separation follows a woman who is separated from her husband, a serial cheater. They have not officialized their separation and not only are they legally still married but his parents still believe they are together. When he goes missing on a research trip in Greece his mother pressures our narrator to go find him. Our narrator, who is now in a new relationship, acquiesces hoping that she will be able to get her husband to agree to a divorce. Once there however she realizes that he has truly vanished. She obverses the staff in the hotel, speculating on the whereabouts of her husband, wondering how and why he has seemingly disappeared, leaving his possessions behind.
I was transfixed by the descriptions of the landscapes and people encountered by our main character. The uneasy scenario our mc is in resulted in a taut atmosphere. Her ambiguous narration proved hypnotic and I felt transported alongside her to this remote region in Greece. While the uncertain nature of her journey and her husband’s unknown whereabouts resulted in a gripping storyline, this was not a fast-paced or plot-driven story. This is a very introspective and reflective work that explores themes of unity and separation, absence and presence, longing and loss, foreignness and belonging, deception and clarity.
I loved the mood of this story. The drawn-out waiting for our mc does may bore some but I found this wait to be enthralling. The tension between her and the other characters (the employees, the husband, her mother-in-law) captivated me. Her piercing narration was particularly rewarding. Not only does she express herself in such an adroit, articulate, and alert way but I found her speculations and observations to be razor-sharp. The author juxtaposes her clarity of vision with her intrinsic vagueness. We learn virtually nothing about her history or who she is. Her crystal-clear narration is in fact rather deceptive as all the while she keeps herself hidden. This ambivalence certainly complemented the precarious atmosphere of her stay in Greece.
While I did find much to be admired in this novel it is not the type of reading that will leave a long-lasting impression on me. It did succeed in making me a fan of this author even if I did not care for her latest novel. I can see why many gave A Separation a low rating. Nothing much happens and for all her navel-gazing the narrator remains a stranger to us. It is the type of novel that at the end may very well make you say "what was the point of all that?". But, if you are in the right mood for a more muggy exploration of a fractured marriage and the limits of language, that succeeds in being both elusive and incisive, well, look no further. Subtle, erudite, and meditative, A Separation will certainly appeal to fans of psychological fiction.
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
830 reviews766 followers
April 3, 2017
Novels about marriages gone sour are countless; a persuasive one that stands out is achieved through character, approach, style, and execution. Kitamura realizes a compelling drama, a melancholy and meditative narrative of marriage and mystery, a sustained story of suspense through quagmires and restraint.

An unnamed London woman in her late thirties, a translator of foreign works, is separated from her writer husband, Christopher, a charismatic charmer and womanizer. After her mother-in-law calls in a desperate attempt to find him in Greece (she has tracked him to a locale and hotel), and begs the narrator to go there, Christopher’s wife decides to use this as an opportunity to ask him for a divorce in person. Their separation has remained a secret, at Christopher’s urging. But now the translator is ready to find and confront him, and to get her life back to something resembling normal.

When the narrator arrives at the luxury hotel in a quaint and rural fishing village, she learns that he left for a side trip, although his belongings remain intact. They accommodate her to stay and wait for his return. In the meantime, her discomforts at the resort hotel accumulate, despite the air of generous hospitality. A receptionist, Maria, glares at her with a mixture of curiosity and hostility. There’s a driver, Stefano, whose cagey politeness and inscrutability makes her wary. Each interaction with a hotel employee increases her suspicion and sense of shame. Her guard is up, and as the days pass, she dwells more and more on her memories, conjectures, shame, and fears. And where did Christopher go?

The passive tone of the book superbly parallels the narrator’s equivalent passivity, creating tension as her suspicions and torment leak out of every pore, even as she rigidly maintains her ostensible self-contained poise.

What gives this book so much sustainability and depth is what goes through the narrator’s mind--an intimacy and immediacy, teased out of passivity, and ratcheted up with Christopher’s absence. In fact, his absence is a dire presence—the “here but not here” X factor that surrounds the narrator’s concerns. And her namelessness a thing suggesting her invisibility, like her work. “Translation is not unlike an act of channeling, you write and you do not write the words.” “…translation’s potential for passivity appealed to me…I could have been a translator or a medium...”

During this time that the narrator spends with no husband, she is also relieved at the delay in confronting him. She is full of contradictions, even as she has a new and loving boyfriend waiting for her at home. As a reader, her reticence and her repression, as well as her desperation and ruminations riveted me. This may be the most inquisitive period of her life, as she begins to mine the many facets that she formerly ignored. “…between two people, there will always be room for failures of imagination.”
Profile Image for Cher.
801 reviews275 followers
February 12, 2017
2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book.

Written in a first person narrative (groan), this novel is a constant inner monologue of the narrator, which created a cold and distant reading experience. The author also chose to follow in the minimal punctuation style that has become so popular of late. Thankfully I read this as an audiobook or I would not have finished it. I find the new trend of dropping quotation marks and other formatting to make for tedious reading and typically will choose a more professionally formatted book to read visually instead. But I digress.

I wasn’t a fan of the above mentioned writing style as it sounded stilted and made engagement more difficult, but the book was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end and can be easily read in one sitting. I just think it will be forgettable for most readers.

Favorite Quote: But he was loved by you, she said insistently, the love of a wife is different, it’s important.
More important than the love of his mother? I asked. I immediately regretted it, I would have taken the question back if I could, the woman’s son had just died, if I could not be generous to her now, when would I? But she replied, somberly, Yes, it is the most important love, the love of the mother is a given, it is taken for granted. A child is born and for the rest of his or her life the mother will love the child, without the child doing anything in particular to earn it. But the love of a wife has to be earned, to be won in the first place and then kept.

First Sentence: It began with a telephone call from Isabella.
116 reviews40 followers
January 20, 2018
Definitely my kind of book…
It was a lazy winter Saturday morning. I was sitting on the bed and sipping cappuccino. Peaceful guitar music from the speakers was meandering through me…
The music was serene with a touch of melancholy, echoing the undertone of the book, and created just the right ambiance for me.
A wife, upon the request of her mother-in-law, went to a deserted town in Greece in search of her estranged husband…
Kitamura’s gentle and flowing prose invited me to join the narrator, the wife, to observe and muse for a couple of ours. The book read like her personal diary, or her thinking-out-loud. At the end of the book, I felt enlightened and refreshed.
The book is mainly about infidelity. And yet plenty of parallel could be drawn between the book and real life about marriage and kinship in general.
It’s not remotely comparable to Gone Girl; it’s not a thriller, and there is no psychopath in the cast. As its Goodreads rating indicates, it’s not for everyone.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
462 reviews290 followers
October 3, 2020
I really liked the stillness of this novel it’s a slow and contemplative book that analyses one woman’s struggles with the dissolution of her marriage.

Needing closure and to finally put an end to the false pretence of her marriage she goes in search of her husband to ask for a divorce, this leads her to a remote village in Greece where she discovers her husband is missing with only his belongings remaining at the hotel. While most of the action occurs in the mind of the narrator you get an insight to her frame of mind as she tries to work out the whereabouts of her husband and the true nature of his disappearance, when tragedy strikes she is left dealing with her deception her inner conflict of whether to divulge the true nature of her separation or not.
Profile Image for Edward  Goetz.
81 reviews16 followers
March 16, 2017
This is a bit of an unusual book. Although the plot is straightforward and simple, the prose is not. The depth and detail the author put into each chapter, as well as the way she developed the characters so fully, was what made the book special to me.

Isabella's every move and observation is so detailed, you feel like you are in Greece with her, seeing and feeling what she is experiencing. The way she explains the other characters, their personalities, faults, and actions, brings the narrative to life.

Finally, her struggle with the separation and what it means is quite thought-provoking.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Christina Pilkington.
1,489 reviews147 followers
March 7, 2017

For a short audiobook that should have taken me a few days to listen to, this one took me 12 days. At the halfway point of this book, I found myself listening to YouTube videos, podcasts- pretty much anything else I could find other than this novel.

That sounds pretty harsh, so I should back up and say, I really enjoyed the first 25% of this book. We read from the POV of a woman who has just received word that her estranged husband has gone missing while visiting Greece and that she needs to go to Greece to find him. We learn a little more about her situation, how she has come to separate from her husband and her current feelings towards him.

Then she goes to Greece. From that point, it all went downhill for me. There was supposed to be this big mystery surrounding what happened to her husband, but everything felt incredibly anti-climatic.

From the hype this book was getting, I was expecting a thrilling page turner, an intriguing mystery, or at least an interesting character study. Nope. None of that. Instead we learn next to nothing about who this woman is apart from being someone who is no longer living with her husband. She’s simply a prop in the story to somewhat drive the weak plot forward.

I wanted to be swept away in the setting of rural Greece. Instead apart from a few scenes, it could have been set anywhere in the world.

Also, the women in the story all obsess over men. Their lives revolve around them. Besides a few sentences thrown around about what jobs they have, all the inner dialogue revolves around this man and feelings about him. It got too repetitive and frankly too degrading.

Sadly, I wanted much more than this book delivered.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,893 reviews430 followers
October 13, 2017
‘A Separation’ is “An empty and ridiculous...” book.

This novel moves with plodding slow steps. I thought it a stifled and smothered narrative. I have noticed though there is an avid audience of admirers for pseudo-intellectual/literary books such as ‘A Separation’. Maybe depressed genteel readers will feel they can safely explore their own buried rage about their failing marriages without feeling too sordid or explicit or exposed by living vicariously through this discreet novel.

For the rest of us, we can admire the developed literary skills from whatever MFA writing class Katie Kitamura attended; especially if you like that sort of abstract intellectual language of emotional vagueness and/or disassociation described in hundreds of pages of a numbed interior life a good writer can dredge up. Admirers of Paula McLain’s ‘wife’ books and Isabel Allende’s latest novels, heads up!

The novel eventually gets to ugly revelations using suitable and vaguely emotive language of which an aristocratic Edwardian would approve. The language, along with the sluggish pacing, allows those of us with delicate sensitivities and high-minded pretensions to prepare ourselves for painful scenes. A revenge of sorts occurs at a safe blameless distance. The author limits any violence to necessary brief descriptions only. She has even included an overbearing mother-in-law upon whom emotionally uncomfortable readers can choose to offload most of the blame for the failure of the narrator’s marriage, while at the same time permitting the reader to pull back from too much personal emotion.

Ok, I confess I hate books which have modern upper-class educated characters who are seriously feeling the importance of High-Table artifice in everything they feel and do no matter how ordinary the behavior (such as in Julian Barnes’ book, The Sense of an Ending, for example). The plots in these books maintain a constipated intellectual upper-class gentility despite the gutter-level marital or social problems of characters. The characters’ problems are handled as if ordinary domestic issues were a public loss of face beyond endurance. Exposed marital affairs appear to signal a ruinous lack of inner fiber that educated people of a certain elite subset of the upper classes are supposed to possess; lacking resistance to sexual desire is a crime far worse than the infidelity itself. This type of moral failure usually causes a character’s death by suicide or murder. Why is it that some current east-coast American authors and some English writers are earnestly writing this garbage, succumbing to an old-fashioned moralistic class elitism; and even worse, why do many organizations give literature awards to these books?

The author definitely is a talented wordsmith. Some of you will adore the 300-page exploration of the author writing sadly about an estranged husband. Some wives do unaccountably feel obliged to take on what is their husband’s obvious guilt as their own. Maybe you have excused a real-life husband because you feel you weren’t woman enough for him (whatever wtf that means). Or maybe you have a rich mother-in-law whom you suspect emasculated the rich boyman you married, and you want to see in a genteel book another view of such a mother-in-law; but it must be written with a gentility congenial to your sensitivities and/or class. Perhaps a man’s rejection has meant you can’t get off of the floor for the rest of your life because you are, in fact, a helpless ninny. Maybe being wealthy is unfulfilling for you as it is for the narrator of ‘A Separation’.

If, gentle reader, you belong to the tribe of genteel women whose husbands have had and you wish to elevate your experience of a soured marriage to the usual literary airy-fairy place of disassociated language many European upper-class and American east-coast literary readers apparently desire, I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,770 reviews4,249 followers
April 5, 2017
A woman and her unfaithful husband have recently separated by mutual agreement. Although the woman – our unnamed narrator – is in a new relationship, her ex-husband, Christopher, has asked her to keep the separation quiet for the time being. So when Christopher's mother Isabella calls with the news that he has disappeared while on a research trip in Europe, the narrator is placed in a quandary. Ultimately, she decides not to tell Christopher's family of their split, and accepts Isabella's offer to send her to Greece to track him down. In the small, beautiful fishing village of Gerolimenas, the narrator finds an abandoned hotel room, a handful of rumours, and an intimate, closed community.

A Separation reminded me of Vendela Vida's The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty – partly, I suppose, because it's about a woman alone abroad, but also because of the narrator's somewhat bewildering flights of fancy. Otherwise sensible, she makes huge leaps of imagination based on hardly anything; infers whole worlds of meaning from the look on a stranger's face. For example, she decides that Maria, an employee at the hotel, has slept with Christopher: there's a particularly effective sequence in which her mental image of this event is seamlessly intercut with interruptions from a waiter, illustrating how she is unable to stem the flow of her own thoughts as her mind sketches out the scene. Not only that, but she goes on to imagine that Maria is involved with Stefano, the local taxi driver; that the two have fought over Christopher; that Maria will grudgingly reconcile with Stefano, but dreams of being with a man like Christopher. At the time the narrator invents this fantasy, there's little evidence any of it is true. The fact that most of it is later proved correct lends a dreamlike, unreliable quality to the whole narrative, and simultaneously suggests the narrator knows more than she is letting on.

I found this theme of imagination and fantasy by far the most fascinating thing about A Separation. In a deceptively throwaway line, the narrator says her marriage to Christopher 'died at the hand of her imagination'. What does she mean by this, and what does it imply about the events that come later? We don't find out. She also condemns Isabella, Christopher's mother, for a mistaken assumption, seemingly unaware of her hypocrisy: 'I looked at her in bewilderment... the horror of other people's expectations... it was pure fantasy or delusion, an idea that had passed through her mind'. Many reviews mention that the narrator seems passive, but few touch on the fact that she is also wildly imaginative. To me, this is primarily a story about a woman's interior life. The narrator's account is so convincing that it's easy to forget there is hardly any proof of her imaginings; indeed, few reviewers seem to have picked up on this. That she comes close to having someone accused of a terrible crime because of an invented scenario shows exactly how far she is willing to let her fantasies take her.

'In daylight,' the narrator says towards the end, 'I can admit that my imagination was only seeking drama'. And a final quote: 'Imagination, after all, costs nothing, it's the living that is the hardest part'. (Yes, she really does mention imagination this often. When I searched the ebook for this word and its diminutives, I got 20 pages of results.) After finishing A Separation, I was left with an unsettling sense that nothing I'd read was quite what it seemed, that I would never know the truth. It's determinedly enigmatic: a story filtered through the mutable thoughts of a highly suggestible character.

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Profile Image for Λίνα Θωμάρεη.
452 reviews32 followers
October 29, 2017
Readathon 2017 20/26: Ένα βιβλίο που εκδόθηκε πρώτη φορά το 17

Ήρθε η ώρα της κρίσης.
Πρώτα από όλα να δώσω τα συγχαρητήρια στην ομάδα που επιμελήθηκε το εξώφυλλο. Πραγματικά υπέροχο.

Το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο των 225 σελίδων στην ουσία είναι μια μονόπλευρη άποψη της πρωταγωνίστριας. Μέσα σε αυτό το βιβλίο φιλοσοφεί αναλύοντας τα πάντα ... και σε αυτό το σημείο με έχασε. Όλο το βιβλίο είναι συνεχόμενες υποθέσεις, σκέψεις και περιστατικά του παρελθόντος, φιλοσοφημένες όσο δεν πάει άλλο και όλη αυτή η κατάσταση μου έδωσε την εντύπωση ότι η πρωταγωνίστρια, η απατημένη σύζυγος, η γυναίκα που συνεχίζει την ζωή της αλλά παραμένει στα χαρτιά ως σύζυγος, είναι μια γυναίκα άνευρη, νωθρή και με κατάθλιψη μέχρι το ταβάνι.

Άρα ενώ το βιβλίο διαδραματίζεται σε ένα μέρος στο οποίο ο σύζυγος (είτε πρώην, είτε νυν) είναι εξαφανισμένος και αυτό από μόνο του δημιουργεί μια ένταση και μία αγωνία και αφού στην συνέχεια γίνονται όλα αυτά που γίνονται και υποτίθεται ότι τα συναισθήματα θα πρέπει να γίνουν πιο έντονα, έχουμε μια ίσια γραμμή συναισθημάτων (σαν την ασυστολία σε ΗΚΓ) από την αρχή μέχρι το τέλος.

Συμπέρασμα: 1,5 αστέρι και η πρωταγωνίστρια να πάει σε Ψυχολόγο άμεσα !!!

Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,612 reviews2,582 followers
February 7, 2017
The narrator has separated from her cheating husband, Christopher, but her in-laws are still in the dark about their new status. So when she gets a call from her mother-in-law saying Christopher has gone missing while researching a book in Greece, she feels obligated to go looking for him. The whole novel is a kind of breathless monologue explaining the unnamed narrator’s quest for facts about her husband. It’s not punctuated as much as I would like – it’s mostly just strings of phrases connected by commas – but that adds to the sense of an unstoppable stream of thought. It’s a quick, propulsive read for that reason, but ultimately not as satisfying a picture of a marriage as many other recent novels such as Fates and Furies. The tone is an odd mixture of confessional, defensive and matter-of-fact; the style reminded me of several authors I’ve read recently: David Szalay, James Lasdun and Margaret Drabble.

Favorite lines: “In the end, what is a relationship but two people, and between two people there will always be room for surprises and misapprehensions, things that cannot be explained. Perhaps another way of putting it is that between two people, there will always be room for failures of imagination.”

Note: A film version is already in the works and will star Katherine Waterston.
Profile Image for Marquette.
146 reviews
December 6, 2017
Pointless and stupid. It was basically one long, run on sentence about a wife’s inner thoughts because her husband, who she was separated from, died.
Maybe he died from boredom? I can’t say I would blame him. This book was awful.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ria.
430 reviews61 followers
February 26, 2023
i'm Greek and i obviously have thoughts :) also yeah i know about Mani, I've seen Gi Tis Elias.

"the fires, they had discouraged people."
first of all Gerolimenas... i don't think that the fires and the fact that it is the end of September is the reason no one is there. yeah i'm a hater what about it?

"the waiter had informed me that the hotel was the only place where i would get my cappuccino, my latte, everywhere else it was Greek coffee or Nescafe."
wtf are u talking about. what year is it?

"it was the kind of hotel that was booked for honeymoons"
:O there?

"he tried to explain that there was nothing to see"
yeah no shit

"Stefano said"

u are not gonna convince me that Gerolimenas is a hot spot for couples and if u are Greek don't tell me that i'm wrong i won't believe you. 3 stars, it wasn't believable.
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,087 reviews222 followers
March 20, 2017
Lots of mixed reviews on this one and I understand why it didn't work for some people but I quite enjoyed it.

The whole book takes place inside the main characters head which obviously leads to a unreliable narrator situation. This is definitely not a page turning thriller (although there is a mystery element to it).
Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
519 reviews428 followers
February 17, 2017
Of all the dozens of books that have been compared to Gone Girl, this is perhaps the most inaccurate comparison yet. And that's okay; I didn't read it because I wanted another Gone Girl, but I do want to clarify for anyone reading this review that A Separation is by no means a thrilling page-turner.

In fact, it's actually quite boring...and yet somehow simultaneously fascinating.

A young woman and her philandering husband Christopher have been secretly separated for six months when he goes missing in a rural Greek town. Prompted by her mother-in-law—who is unaware of their separation—the woman travels to Greece to find him.

While there, she inadvertently discovers more about Christopher, their relationship and herself—all while keeping the secret of their separation.

This is a taut, intimate, psychological exploration of a flawed marriage. Kitamura's prose is cerebral, existential, and at times even mesmerizing. The closest comparison is Hot Milk by Deborah Levy, though I enjoyed Hot Milk significantly more.

Although Kitamura's insights and observations are sharp, it's tiresome being in the narrator's head the entire time—especially without any real outside tension. As I reached the last chapter of this book, I realized the subtle genius of what Kitamura had done with the narrative.* Ultimately, though, this is a book that I appreciated much more than I actually liked.


She gave us a story about a woman who for all intents and purposes ought to have been the main suspect in her husband's death—there were so many reasons why his death would have benefited her, and yet she genuinely had nothing to do with it. Still, she was self-aware enough to acknowledge all of this, and left feeling guilty as a result. In a way, Kitamura turned the trope of the crazy vengeful woman on its head, and I have to appreciate that.

348 reviews
April 29, 2017
A complete waste of time. Hard to imagine that this wordy, verbose book got published. Paragraphs upon paragraphs were dedicated to an exploration of feelings. It was a short book but it was painful to read. Perhaps an editor could have shortened the entire concept of the novel into 200 words for a magazine.

Note to self: avoid this author.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,902 reviews220 followers
May 18, 2023
A young woman (the unnamed narrator) and her husband are separated. She has agreed to keep it secret, even from his parents, at his request. His mother calls, and she is surprised to find out is visiting Greece to research his upcoming book about mourning customs. His mother has not heard from him and asks her to travel to Greece to find him. She agrees, deciding to ask for a divorce when she finds him.

This book follows the interior thoughts of the narrator, and we learn the reasons for the couple’s separation. There are only a handful of characters and limited dialogue. It is elegantly written. In the midst of the story of the breakdown of a marriage, there is a mystery. When the wife gets to Greece the husband has not been back to his hotel in days.

It is slow in developing, and definitely not for anyone looking for a neat resolution. The narrator is meticulous about dissecting every event in her life, which is insightful into human nature, but does not make for a particularly compelling reading experience. It examines the impact of seemingly small decisions in life that can have a large impact.

I picked this book up on the strength of Intimacies, which I loved. This one was a bit of a disappointment. I felt intrigued by the beginning, but somewhere in the middle my interest flagged. I still love Kitamura’s astute writing style and will definitely be reading more of her works.
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