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Poster for Harvard Book Store Presents Claire Messud

Harvard Book Store Presents Claire Messud

Coming on May 17

Run Time: 90 min.

Harvard Book Store Presents:

Claire Messud


This Strange Eventful History: A Novel

in conversation with ALLEGRA GOODMAN

Harvard Book Store welcomes CLAIRE MESSUD—award-winning author of The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children, and Joseph Y. Bae and Janice Lee Senior Lecturer on Fiction at Harvard University—for a discussion of her new novel This Strange Eventful History. She will be joined in conversation by ALLEGRA GOODMAN—Massachusetts Book Award winning author of Sam, The Chalk Artist, and Kaaterskill Falls.


There are two ticket options for this event. Books will be pre-signed by the author.

Book Included: Admission for one and one hardcover copy of This Strange Eventful Historypre-signed by the author.

Admission Only: Admission for one.

About This Strange Eventful History

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).

Praise for This Strange Eventful History

“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

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Allegra Goodman

Allegra Goodman’s novels include Sam (a Read With Jenna Book Club selection), The Chalk Artist (winner of the Massachusetts Book Award), Intuition, The Cookbook Collector, Paradise Park, and Kaaterskill Falls (a National Book Award finalist). Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and has been anthologized in The O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories.  Raised in Honolulu, Goodman studied English and philosophy at Harvard and received a PhD in English literature from Stanford. She is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, the Salon Award for Fiction, and a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced study.  Her new novel Isola will be published in February 2025.

Claire Messud

Claire Messud’s bestselling novels include The Emperor’s Children, a New York Times Book of the Year in 2006; The Woman Upstairs (2013); and The Burning Girl (2017), a finalist for the LA Times Book Award in Fiction. She is also the author of a book of novellas, The Hunters (2001), and a memoir-in-essays, Kant’s Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write (2020). Her work has been translated into over twenty languages. She writes for Harper’s Magazine, The New York Review of Books and the New York Times, among other publications. She was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 2020. Her new novel, This Strange Eventful History, will be published by W.W. Norton in May, 2024.

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