Marie's job as a guard at the National Gallery in London offers her the life she always wanted, one of invisibility and quiet contemplation. But amid the hushed corridors of the Gallery surge currents of history and violence, paintings whose power belies their own fragility. There also lingers the legacy of her great-grandfather Ted, the museum guard who slipped and fell moments before reaching the suffragette Mary Richardson as she took a blade to one of the gallery's masterpieces on the eve of the First World War.
After nine years there, Marie begins to feel the tug of restlessness. A decisive change comes in the form of a winter trip to Paris, where, with the arrival of an uninvited guest and an unexpected encounter, her carefully contained world is torn open.
Asunder is a rich, resonant novel of beguiling depths and beautiful strangeness, exploring the delicate balance between creation and destruction, control and surrender.
They call us guards, warders, invigilators, room keepers, gallery assistants. We are watchmen, sentinels, but we don’t polish guns, shoes or egos. We are custodians of a national treasure, a treasure beyond value stored behind eight Corinthian columns of a neoclassical façade, the dreams of the ancients stuccoed to our building. And our title should honour that.
I came to my profession half by chance, half following an ancestral call. After stumbling upon an ad for a Travelling Exhibition Assistant, I applied for the position but found the vacancy had been filled. Yet the kind man who answered my call mentioned another opening, this one at the British Museum. A guard had just resigned due to the diagnosis of an incurable ailment, and decided he wanted to spend his remaining months staring at something other than nymphs and satyrs locked in battle. They offered him the choice of other wings but he said he wanted to leave London and retire from culture.
My time there didn...
It is to Chloe Aridjis' enormous credit that she makes the daily machinations of a museum guard riveting reading. Marie’s days might be outwardly repetitive and even boring but the reader sees her mind working in inventive and interesting ways...As Marie tries to make peace with her internal struggles, there’s a tightly wound energy that’s apparent on every wonderful page, just waiting to leap up and hold the reader in its welcome embrace.
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Full Review (1112 words).
As Chloe Aridjis explains in Asunder, a painting too must obey the laws of physics - in that it slowly - ever so slowly - descends from "order" (the finished painting) into disorder. This "disorder" is brought about by a series of cracks in the paint or varnish that forms a network over time. This network is called craquelure (pronounced crack-lure). The cracks are formed as result of drying forces, responses to humidity and a number of other environmental factors. As time goes on, paint dries and undergoes shrinkage which, in turn, creates cracks. The pressure on these paintings is higher at the edges than it is in the center, which means cracks are more pronounced at the edges of a painting. Even the human touch can set off a series of ...
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