‘A Separation’ by Katie Kitamura – Not Exactly a Greek Vacation


‘A Separation’ by Katie Kitamura   (2017) – 229 pages


The woman telling the story in ‘A Separation’ is the opposite of an unreliable narrator.   She is sincere, honest, and steady. Her heartfelt first-person account of a marriage gone bad is refreshingly straightforward.  Perhaps some of the appeal of ‘A Separation’ for me was that I truly did like this woman.

The novel begins with the thirtyish woman, we do not find out her name, alone in her home in London.  Her husband Christopher is gone off to Greece on one of his trips to research his next book on Greek mourning rituals. However the wife realizes that her husband is a serial philanderer which probably is the main purpose of his trip.

“It was a question of things withheld, information that he had, and that I did not. In short, it was a question of infidelities – betrayal always puts one partner in the position of knowing, and leaves the other in the dark.”

She finds out in a phone conversation that Christopher’s mother is worried about him since he hasn’t called for quite a while.   Our narrator wife agrees to go to Greece ostensibly to find her husband but her real reason is to tell him she wants a divorce.  She already has a new promising boyfriend Yvan who is a friend of her husband’s.  She remembers a line she overheard that is now quite offensive to her.

“Women are like monkeys, they don’t let go of one branch until they have got hold of another.”     

The rest of the novel takes place in a Greek village, much of it occurring in the hotel where Christopher stayed and now where she is staying.  She suspects that her husband may have had an affair with the young woman Maria who is a desk clerk at the hotel.

About half way through this novel, this story of a marriage gone bad turns into a murder mystery.  The body of her husband turns up along a sparsely travelled road.  The Greek police authorities show her the body.

“But it was more than this, he looked as if he were sleeping – it was also, I now understood, an effort to pretend the journey into death, the process of dying, was in some way peaceful which it was almost certainly not.”  

Our narrator wife is so trustworthy that the Greek authorities never once suspect her of the murder. She has her own suspicions.  She overhears a bitter argument between Maria and her fiancé Stefano.

In the end she just leaves Greece and heads back to her waiting boyfriend Yvan.  There is no clear resolution as to who actually killed Christopher, but we readers don’t object.  Our reliable and likable narrator wife has outlined all the possibilities for us in her mind.


Grade :   A-


6 responses to this post.

  1. Sounds quite refreshing to have a straightforward and trustworthy character – so many modern books have the most convoluted twists!



  2. Oh dear, I really really did not like this central character and found her careful endless almost boring thought processes a way of avoiding truth, avoiding her true feelings and avoiding her responsibilties. Over intellectualising to wriggle out of actions she sh/could have taken. The author made me dislike her intensely, maybe this really is sophisticated writing! Isn’t it interesting how we read novels differently?



    • Hi Carol,
      I have had that same feeling many, many times : ‘They’ must have read a different version of a novel than I did. I did notice that some reviewers were much less enamored of ‘A Separation’ than I was. One reviewer did not like that conversations were related by the narrator rather than printed as dialogue with quotes.
      So much depends on how a reader reacts to the main character. She annoyed you with her thought processes while I found her refreshing. I guess they are making ‘A Separation’ into a movie, so there must be a few people out there who liked the novel. It is a fine thing that people disagree and react differently.



  3. Are you *sure* she doesn’t bump him off?



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