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The Last Life

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Synopses & Reviews

From Powells.com:

Claire Messud's novel, The Last Life, combines a lush evocation of time and place — from Algeria under French colonization, to the south of France, to contemporary Massachusetts — that draws the reader in with a complex and fascinating narrative. At the core of this coming-of-age story is a philosophical meditation on the identity of the exile. Narrator Sagesse La Basse looks back on her teenage years in an attempt to unlock the secrets of her family's history, with the hope that doing so will allow her to heal. In an intimate voice, and with a fifteen-year-old's raw candor, Sagasse unfolds the story of a family fleeing the vestiges of French colonial Algeria and attempting to construct a new home and history. With wisdom and grace Messud explores the dislocation of the exile and ruminates on the information we choose to disclose, and that we choose to deny. Jessica, Powells.com

Publisher Comments:

The Last Life is the story of the teenage Sagesse LaBasse and her family, French Algerian emigrants. It is set in colonial Algeria, the south of France, and New England. The LaBasse family had always believed in the permanence of their world, in which stories created from the past had the weight of truth, in which cynicism was the defense against disaster. But when shots from the grand-father's rifle shatter an evening's quiet, their world begins to crumble, the reality to emerge: the bastard son abandoned by the family before he was even born; Sagesse's handicapped brother for whom the family cared with Catholic dignity; her American mother who pretended to be French; the trigger-happy grandfather; and Sagesse's father, whose act of defiance brought down the Hotel Bellevue, her grandfather's house built on rock, to its knees. Observed with a fifteen-year-old's ruthless regard for truth, The Last Life is a beautifully told novel of secrets and ghosts, love and honor, the stories we tell ourselves, and the lies to which we cling.

Review:

"Claire Messud superbly represents what we mean when we speak of a 'born novelist' — her gifts are equal to her ambition. In The Last Life, her remarkable second novel, Messud engulfs the indelibly inscribed LaBasse family in the fortunes of France, Algeria, and America, intertwining the windings and secret caverns of character and history. Imagine Buddenbrooks crossed with A Passage to India; imagine Camus in a contemporary vein. To open this novel is to sink into a Mediterranean world so urgent and engrossing, so wisely illuminating (and as alive as flesh and Blood), that one regrets arriving at the last page." Cynthia Ozick, Author of The Puttermesser Papers

Review:

"In this rich, resonant, beautifully written novel, Claire Messud brilliantly illuminates the dislocations of body and soul that are the true consequences of exile." Andrea Barrett

Review:

"Claire Messud is a deeply interesting young writer." Penelope Fitzgerald, Author of The Bookshop and The Blue Flower

Review:

"Claire Messud, in The Last Life, gives us a fast-moving coming of age novel that provides not only unexpected gunshots, transgressions, betrayals, and family secrets of the kind Francois Mauriac specialized in, but, as well, a subtle anatomy of the aftereffects of the violent decolonization of Algeria on one middle-class ex-colonial family. Characters are unsparingly drawn, and the critical moments in Sagesse LaBasse's loss of innocence are intensely fixed. There are no longueurs. The settings — the French Riviera, Algeria — are richly evoked. You feel the light." Norman Rush, Author of Mating

Review:

"Claire Messud is a wonderful writer. In The Last Life she takes on themes of family, history, exoticism and romance, and looks behind the surface to find the difficult ideas lurking in the background. Told through one girl's smart and sensitive voice, it's a story about the dangers and seductions of nostalgia, and the ways in which people do things for the wrong reasons. A dryly funny, deeply felt, serious, ambitious, and beautifully imagined book." Jane Mendelsohn

Review:

"Only a writer as intelligent as Claire Messud could have written The Last Life. With its vivid characters, exotic settings, and deep moral questions, this is an elegant and gripping novel." Margot Livesey

Review:

"Messud has a phenomenal gift for eliciting the sense of consequence in what are often trivialized as ephemeral adolescent preoccupations." Anna Shapiro, The New Yorker

Review:

"For all its sombreness of theme, the mysteries of identity, the notion of free will and the dilemma of original sin, The Last Life is a joy to read. Messud's prose is lush, incantatory: "the day lingered like overripe fruit, soft and heavily scented, melting into the glaucous dusk." Her observations are funnily astute, brimming with wit and imagination. Messud's exploration of these demanding, challenging ideas is as elegant and precise as geometry." The Independent

Review:

"Ms. Messud is a fine craftswoman of sentences. The emotional depth of her writing reaches down into the darkness, and the full detail of the ideas it explores is not easily grasped. This is a quietly powerful book that needs to be read in silence." The Economist

Review:

"Sagesse's story is a sad one, as stories of displacement usually are, and Messud is ambitious in her attempt to explore the colonial experience of Algeria through the prism of one family in the south of France." Suzanne Berne, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"A spellbinding and perceptive glimpse into a tortured adolescent soul from a tremendously gifted and empathetic writer." Margaret Flanagan, Booklist

Review:

"A broad canvas, unflinching and clear eye for the truth, and a family tale that never fails to compel and that reverberates universally, as a fine saga should." Kirkus

Synopsis:

Narrated by a 15-year-old girl with a ruthless regard for the truth, this novel of lies and ghosts, love and honor is set in colonial Algeria, the South of France and New England. The LaBasse family is shattered by the shots from a grandfather's rifle and a long-hidden shame is revealed.

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.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780330375634
Publisher:
Picador
Location:
London
Subject:
Immigrants
Subject:
French Americans
Subject:
Algeria
Subject:
France, Southern
Series Volume:
no. 7, revision 4
Publication Date:
1999
Pages:
376 p.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Last Life
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 376 p. pages Picador - English 9780330375634 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Claire Messud superbly represents what we mean when we speak of a 'born novelist' — her gifts are equal to her ambition. In The Last Life, her remarkable second novel, Messud engulfs the indelibly inscribed LaBasse family in the fortunes of France, Algeria, and America, intertwining the windings and secret caverns of character and history. Imagine Buddenbrooks crossed with A Passage to India; imagine Camus in a contemporary vein. To open this novel is to sink into a Mediterranean world so urgent and engrossing, so wisely illuminating (and as alive as flesh and Blood), that one regrets arriving at the last page."
"Review" by , "In this rich, resonant, beautifully written novel, Claire Messud brilliantly illuminates the dislocations of body and soul that are the true consequences of exile."
"Review" by , "Claire Messud is a deeply interesting young writer."
"Review" by , "Claire Messud, in The Last Life, gives us a fast-moving coming of age novel that provides not only unexpected gunshots, transgressions, betrayals, and family secrets of the kind Francois Mauriac specialized in, but, as well, a subtle anatomy of the aftereffects of the violent decolonization of Algeria on one middle-class ex-colonial family. Characters are unsparingly drawn, and the critical moments in Sagesse LaBasse's loss of innocence are intensely fixed. There are no longueurs. The settings — the French Riviera, Algeria — are richly evoked. You feel the light."
"Review" by , "Claire Messud is a wonderful writer. In The Last Life she takes on themes of family, history, exoticism and romance, and looks behind the surface to find the difficult ideas lurking in the background. Told through one girl's smart and sensitive voice, it's a story about the dangers and seductions of nostalgia, and the ways in which people do things for the wrong reasons. A dryly funny, deeply felt, serious, ambitious, and beautifully imagined book."
"Review" by , "Only a writer as intelligent as Claire Messud could have written The Last Life. With its vivid characters, exotic settings, and deep moral questions, this is an elegant and gripping novel."
"Review" by , "Messud has a phenomenal gift for eliciting the sense of consequence in what are often trivialized as ephemeral adolescent preoccupations."
"Review" by , "For all its sombreness of theme, the mysteries of identity, the notion of free will and the dilemma of original sin, The Last Life is a joy to read. Messud's prose is lush, incantatory: "the day lingered like overripe fruit, soft and heavily scented, melting into the glaucous dusk." Her observations are funnily astute, brimming with wit and imagination. Messud's exploration of these demanding, challenging ideas is as elegant and precise as geometry."
"Review" by , "Ms. Messud is a fine craftswoman of sentences. The emotional depth of her writing reaches down into the darkness, and the full detail of the ideas it explores is not easily grasped. This is a quietly powerful book that needs to be read in silence."
"Review" by , "Sagesse's story is a sad one, as stories of displacement usually are, and Messud is ambitious in her attempt to explore the colonial experience of Algeria through the prism of one family in the south of France."
"Review" by , "A spellbinding and perceptive glimpse into a tortured adolescent soul from a tremendously gifted and empathetic writer."
"Review" by , "A broad canvas, unflinching and clear eye for the truth, and a family tale that never fails to compel and that reverberates universally, as a fine saga should."
"Synopsis" by , Narrated by a 15-year-old girl with a ruthless regard for the truth, this novel of lies and ghosts, love and honor is set in colonial Algeria, the South of France and New England. The LaBasse family is shattered by the shots from a grandfather's rifle and a long-hidden shame is revealed.
"Synopsis" by , 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.
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