The Last Life by Claire Messud
A Novel

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Synopsis

Narrated by a fifteen-year-old girl with a ruthless regard for truth, The Last Life is a beautifully told novel of lies and ghosts, love and honor. Set in colonial Algeria, and in the south of France and New England, it is the tale of the LaBasse family, whose quiet integrity is shattered by the shots from a grandfather's rifle. As their world suddenly begins to crumble, long-hidden shame emerges: a son abandoned by the family before he was even born, a mother whose identity is not what she has claimed, a father whose act of defiance brings Hotel Bellevue-the family business-to its knees. Messud skillfully and inexorably describes how the stories we tell ourselves, and the lies to which we cling, can turn on us in a moment. It is a work of stunning power from a writer to watch.
 

About Claire Messud

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Claire Messud's most recent novel, The Emperor's Children, was a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, and her book of novellas, The Hunters, were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and her second novel, The Last Life, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Editor's Choice at The Village Voice. All four books were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Messud has been awarded Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.
 
Published September 28, 2000 by Mariner Books. 417 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Last Life

Publishers Weekly

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Loss of innocence--for a young girl, her family and her nation--is the theme of Messud's resonant second novel. Plangent with the memories of a pivotal two-year period in the life of teenage narrator

Aug 30 1999 | Read Full Review of The Last Life: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Loss of innocence--for a young girl, her family and her nation--is the theme of Messud's resonant second novel. Plangent with the memories of a pivotal two-year period in the life of teenage narrator

Aug 30 1999 | Read Full Review of The Last Life: A Novel

Book Reporter

Sagesse's father, Alexandre, lives in Jacques's shadow and is himself a hotel employee, having been forced to accept his family's largess years before, when Sagesse's brother, Etienne, was born brain-damaged and physically impaired.

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AV Club

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As the resulting maelstrom stirs up the LaBasses' clashing nationalities and bitter old secrets, Sagesse clings to her severely disabled brother, whose blank innocence remains constant regardless of the occasion.

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of The Last Life: A Novel

London Review of Books

He was the Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University.

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Reader Rating for The Last Life
67%

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