Briefly Noted

A Separation
The winter was bleak, cold, wet, cloudy, day after day, lasting for months. I need some sun, I wanted some sun.

It is why I read Katie Kitamura’s tale, A Separation, in which the nameless narrator travels to Greece to find out what happened to her former husband. She learns he is there or was supposed to be there, when his mother calls her to find out why he isn’t returning her phone calls.

His mother knows nothing of their separation and forthcoming divorce. The narrator agrees to travel to Greece to formalize the state of affairs between them.

He was last heard from in a small village in the southern Peloponnese where he has gone to research a book on the “weepers” who are paid to howl or wail at funerals in this part of the world. What she learns is that he was recently found dead, in a ditch not far from the hotel where he was staying.

The mystery of who killed him and for what reason forms the background of the novel. The narrator casually goes through the motions of learning what happened, as she goes from place to place and from person to person in a sunny Greek village in the Peloponnese.

The winter was a little brighter, a little warmer.

...whatever we might wish to believe about ourselves, we are only the result of how others treated us. Rachel Cusk

Rachel Cusk's latest novel Transit unfolds in a series of encounters the writer, Faye, has when she moves her family to London after the collapse of her marriage. She chances upon her ex-boyfriend, who finds himself back in London, “straitjacketed in routine.” After Faye buys a run-down house, her remodeler tells her how much he misses his former life in Poland.

Her downstairs neighbors shout obscenities at her, complaining about all the banging and noise that occurs as the walls come tumbling down and the floors are being ripped up. Her children call her about their problems at school, the keys they lost to their apartment, and the difficulties of living with their father.

Then there is a student Faye is teaching how to deal with the thousands of pages she has accumulated but can’t figure out what to do with them. At her hairdressers she engages in a philosophical discussion with her hair stylist.

The chapters proceed in this fashion, as Faye mostly listens and questions the tales of the individuals she encounters. But we know next to nothing about Faye, the underlying conditions of her life or where she is headed next.

Cusk concludes, “I was beginning to see what other people called fate in the unfolding of events, as though living were merely an act of reading to find out what happens next.”