The Last Life by Claire Messud

‘The Last Life’ by Claire Messud is a coming-of-age story set in the early 1990s about Sagesse LaBasse, a French-American girl whose family own a hotel in the south of France which was opened by her grandfather after he emigrated from Algeria.  The story follows Sagesse as she explores her multiple identities and comes to terms with the events of the past.

I read this book a few weeks ago now and I have been putting off writing a review of it because I couldn’t really decide whether I liked it or not.  On one hand, the story is undoubtedly well written with lots of interesting themes and observations about family dynamics.  In particular, the character of Sagesse and the various adolescent emotions she experiences were convincingly written.  On the other hand, I didn’t find any of the other characters easy to like or care about.  The family saga unravels very slowly and I think the moody atmosphere got a bit tedious after a while.

Overall, the style of prose in ‘The Last Life’ is very rich but I just didn’t find the story as interesting or gripping as I hoped I would and I never really got into it.  It is possible that this was a case where I read the wrong book at the wrong time in that I might have appreciated it a bit more had I picked it up on a different occasion.  However, I haven’t read any of Messud’s other novels so I can’t really compare.  Are any of them worth reading or is she just not for me?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The Last Life by Claire Messud

  1. I read The Woman Upstairs this summer, and my feelings on that book are similar to the ones you expressed here. I had no doubt that she was writing about some important themes, but it was probably a bit *too* meditative for me, her words and sentence structures a little too convoluted. Now that I’ve seen your review as well as others on her other books, I am thinking she is not for me.

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  2. I read The Emperor’s Children and I loved it! It was a while ago though but I do seem to remember thinking the same thing about the characters; they were not portrayed as the most likeable people. I think that could be an interesting point though; she may do this ofn purpose? To challenge the reader or to make it more realistic? I’m not sure but I did like the novel.

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  3. I’ve liked her other works so I will be sure to check it out. Thanks for making me aware of it.

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  4. I really liked it. It wasn’t plot driven, but it really did bring the intensity of Sagesse’s world to life. I admired it a lot. I thought Sagesse’s mother was sympathetically portrayed too. The mother wasn’t perfect and was living with a big mistake she had made, but she came through it stronger. And Sagesse was a great character – kind of knowing but not at all precocious.

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  5. Pingback: The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud | A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

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