This Strange Eventful History: A Novel (Hardcover)

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One of Oprah Daily's Most Anticipated Books of 2024 • One of New York magazine's "23 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2024" • One of The Guardian's "Books to Look Out for in 2024" • One of The Globe & Mail's Most Anticipated Books of 2024 • One of BookPage's Most Anticipated fiction of 2024 • One of Literary Hub's “Most Anticipated Books of 2024” • One of Book Riot's "Most Anticipated Books of 2024"



An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history, from one of our finest contemporary novelists.


Over seven decades, from 1940 to 2010, the pieds-noirs Cassars live in an itinerant state—separated in the chaos of World War II, running from a complicated colonial homeland, and, after Algerian independence, without a homeland at all. This Strange Eventful History, told with historical sweep, is above all a family story: of patriarch Gaston and his wife Lucienne, whose myth of perfect love sustains them and stifles their children; of François and Denise, devoted siblings connected by their family’s strangeness; of François’s union with Barbara, a woman so culturally different they can barely comprehend one another; of Chloe, the result of that union, who believes that telling these buried stories will bring them all peace.


Inspired in part by long-ago stories from her own family’s history, Claire Messud animates her characters’ rich interior lives amid the social and political upheaval of the recent past. As profoundly intimate as it is expansive, This Strange Eventful History is “a tour de force…one of those rare novels that a reader doesn’t merely read but lives through with the characters” (Yiyun Li).



About the Author


Claire Messud is the author of six works of fiction. A recipient of Guggenheim and Radcliffe fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she teaches at Harvard University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Praise For…


Claire Messud has transformed three generations of her family's story into a tour de force in This 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.

— Taylor Antrim - Vogue

It’s almost unbearably moving, wise and full of the most gorgeous prose.
— The Guardian

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

Deeply intertwined with the sociopolitical upheaval of the 20th century, and inspired by Messud’s own family history, this sweeping narrative is as intimate as it is profound.
— Oprah Daily

This Strange Eventful History relates the story of the Cassars, a family of French Algerian origin who were displaced after World War II and Algerian independence. Author of The Emperor’s Children, The Woman Upstairs and The Burning Girl, Claire Messud crafts complex characters and builds tension by exploring the intensity of their emotions. This family saga has the added intrigue of being inspired in part by a family memoir written by Messud’s grandfather.

— BookPage

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.
— Donna Seaman - Booklist (starred review)

[Claire Messud] paints compelling portraits of internal conflicts and tangled relationships, dropping along the way tantalizing references to crucial events that will be clarified later, in a rich narrative that defies summary…[her] 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.
— Kirkus (starred review)

[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)

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, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Netanyahus

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, author of Homeland Elegies, a New York Times Top Ten book

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 excludesus, 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 Prize Finalist This Other Eden

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, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning The Book of Goose


Product Details
ISBN: 9780393635041
ISBN-10: 039363504X
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 448
Language: English