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Life and Death Stuff

Amanda Claybaugh: Claire Messud

19 October 2006
The Emperor’s Children 
by Claire Messud.
Picador, 431 pp., £14.99, September 2006, 0 330 44447 6
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... the college friends. The new magazine provides employment for several, and each of them falls in love. It seems that they might be ready at last to come of age. An accomplished novelist of manners, ClaireMessud writes in the tradition of Jane Austen, Henry James and Edith Wharton. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, even nods to Austen through one of its plots, which involves a vicar and a ...

Yum-Yum Pickles

Alex Clark: Claire Messud

6 June 2002
The Hunters: Two Short Novels 
by Claire Messud.
Picador, 181 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 0 330 48814 7
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... The recurring theme of a life’s compression or diminution is reflected in the deceptive miniaturism of the twin stories in The Hunters. Messud labours on her two inches of ivory – and the book can, at times, feel like a labour – to create a work that tests the possibilities of how much can be encoded in how little. According to her ...

Hug me, kiss me

Penelope Fitzgerald

6 October 1994
Such Devoted Sisters: An Anthology of Stories 
edited by Shena Mackay.
Virago, 330 pp., £6.99, August 1994, 1 85381 755 4
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When the World Was Steady 
by Claire Messud.
Granta, 270 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 14 014099 9
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... an atheist – where the elder daughter is trapped in a hideous marriage. She confides only in her younger sister, who can’t bear the weight of what she hears. And yet her sacrifice helps nobody. ClaireMessud’s sympathetic first novel, When the World Was Steady, looks at some of the same cross-tensions. Mrs Simpson, inappropriately named Melody, is growing old, and possesses what D.H. Lawrence ...

Bonjour Sagesse

Frank Kermode: Claire Messud

30 September 1999
The Last Life 
by Claire Messud.
Picador, 376 pp., £12.99, August 1999, 0 330 37563 6
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... ClaireMessud’s first novel, When the World Was Steady, published five years ago, won praise from critics who know what they’re talking about – for example, Penelope Fitzgerald, writing in the LRB. It was a ...

How awful

Emily Witt: Claire Messud’s Spinster

23 May 2013
The Woman Upstairs 
by Claire Messud.
Virago, 304 pp., £14.99, May 2013, 978 1 84408 731 0
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... are sexless, meddlesome and prissy. These days, what they used to call a spinster is a fearsome spectre, someone to avoid, like Bridget Jones’s single woman found half-eaten by her Alsatian. Since ClaireMessud can no longer use spinster in its neutral sense of an unmarried woman, she adopts a euphemism in this novel about a very disappointed schoolmarm without a husband or child who becomes obsessed ...

Shave for them

Christian Lorentzen: ‘The Submission’

22 September 2011
The Submission 
by Amy Waldman.
Heinemann, 299 pp., £12.99, September 2011, 978 0 434 01932 8
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... ought to sound like: ‘And always in the background now, today, every day, the insistent whine of the memorial controversy. The encounter with Alyssa Spier was just a few days past, and for all Claire’s resistance, Spier’s insinuations had slithered inside to coil around Claire’s own doubts. This repulsive, reptilian distrust – it never left her now.’ The snakes of distrust, among other ...

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