Claire Messud's picture

Claire Messud

USA flag (b.1966)

Claire Messud is an American novelist and literature and creative writing professor. She is best known as the author of the 2006 novel The Emperor's Children.

Genres: Literary Fiction
Anthologies edited
   Ploughshares Summer 2016 (2016) (with James Wood)
Non fiction
PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction Best Book nominee (1996) : When the World Was Steady
Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (2006) : The Emperor's Children

Claire Messud recommends
All the Days and Nights (1995)
William Maxwell
"Scrupulously executed, moving landscapes of America's twentieth century."
The Taxi Queue (2007)
Janet Davey
"She has an acute eye for the hairline faults that will ultimately hinder daily life."
Girl Trouble (2009)
Holly Goddard Jones
"Holly Goddard Jones is blessed with wisdom beyond her years. A gimlet eye, and an enviable literary talent... A fierce and exhilerating achievement."
The Sentimentalists (2009)
Johanna Skibsrud
"Johanna Skibsrud's remarkable debut is a novel at once lyrical and frank, the resonantly layered portrait of a man, a family and a place that will stay with you long after you read the last page."
The Last Illusion (2014)
Porochista Khakpour
"Utterly original The Last Illusion weaves Iranian myth with contemporary American neurosis to create a bittersweet poetry all its own."
Heather, the Totality (2017)
Matthew Weiner
"Short and rapier-sharp, Matthew Weiner's Heather, The Totality compels and unnerves in equal measure. Like the great Patricia Highsmith, Weiner renders the disturbing not just plausible but exquisitely, agonisingly inevitable. A tour de force."
The Cloister (2018)
James Carroll
"With his familiar deftness and depth, James Carroll weaves a profound and compelling novel from diverse but overlapping narrative strands. From the conversations between a Catholic priest and a French Jewish woman in mid-twentieth century New York to the brutality of Nazi-occupied Paris, to the great medieval love story of Abelard and Heloïse, The Cloister illuminates life's most vital questions, and proposes inspiring, radical, and timely answers."
West (2018)
Carys Davies
"To read Carys Davies' West is to encounter a myth, or a potent dream—a narrative at once new and timeless. Exquisite, continent, utterly vivid, this short novel will live on in your imagination long after you read the last page."
The Garden Party (2018)
Grace Dane Mazur
"This vital novel offers delicious echoes of Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster, and a touch of A Midsummer Night's Dream--but its magic is unique. The Garden Party is beautiful and full of life."
The Falconer (2019)
Dana Czapnik
"Smart, tough, an extraordinary athlete, Lucy Adler teeters, zealous and baffled, on the cusp of womanhood. Dana Czapnik’s frank heroine has a voice, and a perspective, you won’t soon forget. The Falconer is an exhilarating debut."
Unquiet (2019)
Linn Ullmann
"I’ve long admired Linn Ullmann’s fiction, and Unquiet is her masterpiece. Based on her upbringing as the child of two great artists, it is the portrait of complex loves; of a youth divided and inspired by diametrically opposed creative influences; and of the ravages of age. Calm yet fierce, exquisitely rendered, this novel imprints itself indelibly - as if you, too, had been there."
Little Gods (2020)
Meng Jin
"Meng Jin's beautiful debut novel is ambitious in the best ways: meticulously observed, daringly imagined, rich in character and history. Ranging across continents, cultures and generations, Jin poses profound questions: how might we know ourselves, or the people we love? And what truths, if any, travel with us?"
Sea Wife (2020)
Amity Gaige
"Taut as a thriller, emotionally precise yet threaded with lyricism. This is an unforgettable novel."
The All-Night Sun (2020)
Diane Zinna
"Memorable and meaningful."
Hieroglyphics (2020)
Jill McCorkle
"Wise and tender, Hieroglyphics captures life itself: the experiences that shape us and bind us to one another, and the moments of terror and grace we carry in our hearts. Jill McCorkle's new novel is a triumph."
The Committed (2021)
(Sympathizer, book 2)
Viet Thanh Nguyen
"The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s furious and exhilarating sequel to The Sympathizer, is part gangster-thriller, part searing cultural analysis of the post-colonial predicament, seen through the eyes of a Vietnamese-French mixed race bastard double agent. Paris of forty years ago swirls to life around him, from intellectual salons to filthy toilets—with glimpses of everyone from Johnny Hallyday to Frantz Fanon to Julia Kristeva. Like Ellison’s Invisible Man, these novels will surely become classics."
Who Is Maud Dixon? (2021)
Alexandra Andrews
"Who Is Maud Dixon? channels the spirit of Patricia Highsmith at her finest: Alexandra Andrews' deliciously witty, surprising and sly novel will keep you riveted to the last page."
In the Country of Others (2021)
Leïla Slimani
"Leila Slimani is a wonderful writer, and this gorgeous novel brings vibrantly to life the vanished world of 1950s Morocco, in a narrative at once richly layered and deceptively simple. I loved it and didn't want it to end."
Skinship (2021)
Yoon Choi
"Yoon Choi's beautiful debut story collection bring[s] a rich and engaging new voice to contemporary American letters. With refreshing amplitude, patience, and (dare I say) wisdom, Choi's stories explore the complexities of her characters' diverse experiences . . . In each story, Choi evokes a world entire . . . [One character's] simple observation is the opposite of bombast: at once ordinary and profound, it ripples outward to evoke the biggest questions of identity and meaning . . . Choi manages to convey much that is unspoken but present."
Out of Mind (2021)
David Bergen
"Always incisive, richly evocative of our human experience, the work of David Bergen illuminates and exhilarates. His is a vital literary voice."
Present Tense Machine (2022)
Gunnhild Øyehaug
"Oyehaug is splendidly clever . . . But she's also thoughtful, using her elaborately conceived, interconnected narrative spirals to ask questions about the relevance and importance of stories, and about connections between the literarily lived life and the literally lived life. Simultaneously, she inquires about and, in spite of everything, enacts the divine power of language to create."
Thank You, Mr. Nixon (2022)
Gish Jen
"Witty, engaging and profound, the stories in Gish Jen's new collection beautifully illuminate the evolution of American-Chinese relationships over the past fifty years. An indispensable contemporary voice."
Fencing with the King (2022)
Diana Abu-Jaber
"Fencing With the King, about a young American woman's encounter with her Jordanian family and their complex legacy, is a rare pleasure. Abu-Jaber's rich characters live and breathe around you, and her nuance and wit bring the largest themes to irresistible, present life."
Activities of Daily Living (2022)
Lisa Hsiao Chen
"Brilliant, fiercely honest, and exhilarating, Lisa Hsiao Chen's Activities of Daily Living illuminates the symbiotic relationship of art and life--the art of life, indeed. This is a riveting and memorable novel."
Time Shelter (2022)
Georgi Gospodinov
"In equal measure playful and profound, Georgi Gospodinov's Time Shelter renders the philosophical mesmerizing, and the everyday extraordinary. I loved it."
Counterfeit (2022)
Kirstin Chen
"Sly and thoroughly compelling, Kirstin Chen's Counterfeit illuminates the world of fake designer handbags, as ruthless adventuress Winnie and her upstanding former college roommate Ava build an illicit business out of bravado and lies. Nothing is as it seems, and Chen's ingenious plot will keep you breathless to the last page."
Not Safe For Work (2022)
Isabel Kaplan
"Frank, funny and unputdownable, Isabel Kaplan's NSFW takes you on an ambitious young woman's wild ride through Hollywood. Her mother's a famous feminist lawyer, and she's a rising executive star, mistress of her destiny. But behind the glitter and the justice, everyone is tarnished and compromised - including even our narrator. Kaplan, with her sharp and nuanced eye, sees it all, and tells it brilliantly."
The Deceptions (2022)
Jill Bialosky
"At once classical and contemporary, Jill Bialosky's powerful new novel weaves together themes of art and life, sexuality and family, gender dynamics and selfhood. The Deceptions is urgent, unsettling, and utterly consuming - a triumph."
Signal Fires (2022)
Dani Shapiro
"Wise, deeply perceptive, suffused with light in spite of life's darkness, Dani Shapiro's Signal Fires is an amazing novel. Shapiro inhabits her characters with lucidity and compassion, and renders their ordinary lives transcendent."
Beyond That, the Sea (2023)
Laura Spence-Ash
"In this beautiful novel, Laura Spence-Ash renders the last century with painterly precision. Beyond That, the Sea tells the story of a British girl taken in by a prosperous New England family in the Second World War, and of the legacy of the intimate relationships that ensue--a story as rich and vital as life."
The One (2023)
Julia Argy
"Riveting, astute and darkly comic, The One takes us behind the scenes of reality television: Julia Argy's delicious novel is more engrossing than the show itself."

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