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This Strange Eventful History

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780349127057

Price: £20

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‘One of those rare novels which a reader doesn’t merely read but lives through with the characters . . . Claire Messud is a magnificent storyteller‘ Yiyun Li

June 1940. As Paris falls to the Germans, Gaston Cassar – honorable servant of France, devoted husband and father, currently posted as naval attache in Salonica – bids farewell to his beloved wife, aunt and children, placing his faith in God that they will be reunited after the war. But escaping the violence of that cataclysm is not the same as emerging unscathed. The family will never again be whole.

A work of breathtaking historical sweep and vivid psychological intimacy, This Strange Eventful History charts the Cassars’ unfolding story as its members move between Salonica and Algeria, the US, Cuba, Canada, Argentina, Australia and France – their itinerary shaped as much by a search for an elusive wholeness, as by the imperatives of politics, faith, family, industry and desire.


Claire Messud has transformed three generations of her family's story into a tour de force inThis Strange Eventful History . . . all around them are the upheavals of the 20th century, but though Messud is working on a grand canvas, her skill is in miniature. History is dazzling in its fine-tuned character studies . . . all beautifully realized. This is a pointillist novel, profound in its portrayal of strains, bonds, and heartbreak
Almost unbearably moving, wise and full of the most gorgeous prose
Alex Preston, Observer Novels to Look Out For in 2024
Messud's expansive novel is a family chronicle set between 1940 and 2010 that doubles as an album of itinerancy, tracking the Cassars' restless journeys across six continents and illuminating the rootlessness that gripped the generation raised in the aftermath of World War II . . . Messud's patiently detailed personality studies acquire emotional force, particularly as cracks begin to show in the Cassar mythology . . . [This Strange Eventful History] skillfully build[s] to a low but steady boil while delivering quiet, elliptical moments that nevertheless linger in the mind
Wall Street Journal
Messud's gimlet eye and quietly masterful way with words make every character and incident gripping . . . Brilliant and heart-wrenching; Messud is one of contemporary literature's best
Starred Kirkus review
This epic family saga, which stretches from Algeria in 1927 to Connecticut in 2010 . . . [is a] wise and insightful novel about identity and family, and how love can stifle as well as comfort
The Times, Book of the Day
Wonderfully enjoyable, intelligent, perceptive, moving . . . written with such affection and understanding, such an awareness of the passing of time and of the unavoidably bruising nature of experience which is nevertheless redeemed by love, loyalty, and kindness . . . It is indeed rare to come upon a novel which offers such a cornucopia of pleasure, such a sense of the physical world and the reality of experience
An epic exploration of a family's long and often tortured history. Though the novel is both sweeping and intimate, spanning seven decades and six continents, from World War II through the aughts, Messud's piercing interiority keeps the focus tight, gaining the reader access to her characters' innermost thoughts. Her attention to detail, memory, and foreshadowing suggest the influence of Tolstoy and Proust
Boston Globe
A novelist of exquisite artistry and insight draws on her own family history in this gorgeously realized, acutely sensitive, cosmopolitan, century-spanning, multigenerational saga . . . Messud captures life's wheels-within-wheels on every incandescent page
Booklist (starred review)
In a major new novel from the author of The Woman Upstairs, a family is dispersed across the globe in the wake of the second world war
Guardian 'Books to Look Out For in 2024'
This Strange Eventful History is the powerful saga of a family buffeted by eternal conflicts: war, exile, thwarted ambitions, forbidden sexual desires. Messud tells the story of the Cassars, a French colonial family expelled from their beloved Algeria and scattered across Europe, North America, Australia, and how each generation of survivors relives the familial trauma of dispossession. Messud's mesmerizing tale of true love, duty, faith, and family secrets is a must-read!
Fernanda Eberstadt, author of BITE YOUR FRIENDS
Deeply intertwined with the sociopolitical upheaval of the twentieth century, and inspired by the author's own family history, this sweeping narrative is as intimate as it is profound. All of Messud's work is masterful, but this novel is her masterpiece
Oprah Daily
A novel of how families are scattered across borders by the uncontrollable forces of history . . . a fascinating and wise work. It is about a family, but it is also about the inexorable sands of time which slip through our fingers from one minute to the next
Sunday Independent
An engrossing tale with dizzying sweep, and beautifully written
Lionel Shriver
Inspired by acclaimed author Claire Messud's own ancestry, This Strange Eventful History chronicles seven decades in the lives of a fictional family of Algerian-born French citizens. Opening with the patriarch, naval attaché Gaston, while he is stationed in Greece as Paris falls to the Nazis, the novel unfolds as war, distance, politics, and faith test the family's ties. Messud follows the Cassars from 1940 to 2010, weaving a complex, multi-generational saga against the backdrop of World War II, the Algerian Revolution, and beyond
The 25 Most Anticipated Books of 2024, Time magazine
There are few genres more enjoyable than the sprawling, decade-spanning family saga (especially in the hands of a brilliant novelist). Claire Messud's latest novel tells the story of an Algerian-born French family from 1940 through 2010 as they navigate personal and political upheaval . . . Sold
Literary Hub
An epic cross-generational story that follows a pieds-noirs family separated in the chaos of World War II and made adrift without a homeland after Algerian independence. The novel's ingenuity and ambitious scope can't be underestimated; This Strange Eventful History is nothing less than a literary event, sure to surprise and delight at every turn
Chicago Review of Books
The big questions are here, about family and colonialism and grief. But the real promise of a 425-page family epic is that it will provide an emotional punch, too. On that, it delivers.... it's hard not to be hypnotized
This Strange Eventful History is an astonishment - rich and luminous, dense with life, wide with wisdom. Messud's view of the Cassar family - and we suspect as we read it, her own - is as emotionally precise and imaginatively capacious as her rendering of the history that shapes their fortunes. Rarely has the private magic of familial love been so fully realized in a public act of literature. Just exquisite
Ayad Akhtar
[Messud] draws from her own family history for this exquisite multigenerational saga of the Cassars, a pied-noir clan exiled from Algeria by the country's 1954-62 war of independence... In her characteristically artful prose, Messud burrows inside the hearts and minds of her key players, bringing to their struggles and self-deceptions a deep-veined empathy made even more remarkable by how close she is to the story. This is an astonishment
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Profound and exacting... an epic involving several generations of a diasporic family on a volatile earth
Literary Review
A choral mural of sweep and scope that knows just when to render the historical personal, Claire Messud's epic is above all a wise, wary, yet love-struck chronicle of how the selves we strive to make become "colonized" by family
Joshua Cohen, Pulitzer Prize-winner of THE NETANYAHU’S
Magnificent and multi-layered, hearty and heartbreaking . . . a generation-spanning, continent-hopping family saga
Financial Times
A tour de force, This Strange Eventful History is one of those rare novels which a reader doesn't merely read but lives through with the characters. Call it the War and Peace of the 20th and 21st century, call it The Long View of a family migrating through many borders, worlds, and eras, call it anything and we fall short. Claire Messud is a magnificent storyteller, and the novel, an all-encompassing history of many human hearts and any human heart, will linger and haunt us as the best and the most heartbreaking memory
Yiyun Li
A rich, sprawling saga . . . This Strange Eventful History may be Messud's finest book
Sunday Telegraph
What an extraordinary experience This Strange Eventful History gives to readers. It takes them on artful and masterfully orchestrated grand tours - of the world as it spins toward and away from World War II into nearly our own time, of three generations of the Cassar family as it concentrates and disperses and arrays itself across the spinning world, of the individual family members as they each experience in their own indelible ways how history enfolds and excludes us, how time - implacable and indecipherable - befalls us, and how love may possibly be the only true human masterpiece, elusive as it so often and tragically proves to be. Claire Messud captures the heartbreaking paradoxes of being in our world and in ourselves yet feeling separated from both with a precision and acuity like no other writer I know
Paul Harding, author of the Booker shortlisted THIS OTHER EDEN
This Strange Eventful History is a deep and beautiful slow burn, encompassing a sweep of history and acutely observed family dynamics. Claire Messud is without doubt one of the most talented novelists of her generation
Joanna Briscoe
'magnificent and multi-layered, hearty and heartbreaking'
Angel Gurría-Quintana, Financial Times