This is a story about the stories we write for women and girls -- stories of violence, abuse, victimhood, sex, and misconduct -- and how all stories, no matter how close they hope to get to the truth, are made up. When I started The Burning Girl, I was struck by how different it was from Messud's last book, The Woman Upstairs. Where that book is cynical and chic, this one is earnest and suburban, almost YA in its affect. But like Nora in that other book, Julia is an analytical, voyeuristic narrator, who desires to be seen, understood, and loved -- even while failing to fully see or understand the one she's fixed her own gaze on, her beloved Cassie.— Morgan
September 2017 Indie Next List
“Claire Messud is one of our most talented storytellers. Her latest, The Burning Girl, is a crystalline evocation of the deep friendships that develop between teenage girls, a bond unlike any other. Messud traverses the fraught alliances and raw emotions of high school, reminding us that these ordinary rites of passage can have extraordinary consequences. Messud's writing is deft and immersive, her character development sharp and perceptive. The novel recreates the pain of first realizing that it is impossible to fully know another, that our self-narratives reflect how we want to be seen but not who we actually are.”
— Lori Feathers, Interabang Books, Dallas, TX
A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
"[A] masterwork of psychological fiction.… Messud teases readers with a psychological mystery, withholding information and then cannily parceling it out." —Chicago Tribune
Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality—crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.
Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.
The Burning Girl was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, NPR, Financial Times, Town & Country, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Refinery29, and Literary Hub.
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.
The friendship of two girls, Julia and Cassie, animates this slim, dreamlike novel.… Messud plays, lightly, with familiar archetypes, deftly abstracting her tale so that it flares into myth.
— The New Yorker
[Messud] is an absolute master storyteller and bafflingly good writer.… It is that combination of imagination and skill that makes The Burning Girl exceptional.… It amplifies that subtle, piercing shift between Cassie and Julia, made brighter by passages of sheer splendorous prose.
— Los Angeles Times
Breathtaking.… With this novel, Messud brings her own particular brand of astuteness and emotional intelligence through her careful and thoughtful prose.
— San Francisco Chronicle
Messud is at her most incisive in exploring the volatile transition from childhood to adolescence.
— Wall Street Journal
[Messud] has specialized in creating unusual female characters with ferocious, imaginative inner lives… and quietly making a case for women’s interiority as a subject worthy of the most serious examination.
— Ruth Franklin - New York Times Magazine
Messud captures young adolescence vividly and unjudgmentally.… Messud is a storyteller: the ability to compel and hold the reader’s interest may not be the crown and summit of novel writing, but it’s the beginning and end of it.… [T]he story rewards the reader right through to the end.
— Ursula K. Le Guin - Guardian
Slim but impactful.… The Burning Girl asks how well we can ever know our closest confidants and answers its own question with every refined page.
— Vanity Fair
Claire Messud nails it… with The Burning Girl, a hypnotic coming-of-age novel about two small-town Massachusetts best friends, who grow up with strikingly different outcomes.
Messud is psychologically astute about her characters and about the competing social and familial pressures… that make adolescent friendship and its dissolution so fraught.
— Boston Globe
The kind of book more common in the middle of the twentieth century than it is today.… Like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye… The Burning Girl has a more sophisticated structure, in its unobtrusive handling of the relation between its narrative voice and Julia’s younger self, and its moral complexities seem greater too.
— Michael Gorra - New York Review of Books