The Burning Girl by Claire Messud - review by Anne Chisholm

Anne Chisholm

Trial by Fire

The Burning Girl


Fleet 213pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

‘Everyone’, says the narrator’s mother halfway through this novel, ‘loses a best friend at some point.’ The American writer Claire Messud’s new book is an exceptionally well-written and emotionally powerful account of one such loss, in which the intense friendship between two prepubescent girls fails as they move from the clarity of childhood towards the uncertainties and dangers of adolescence. Messud, as it happens, was an early and passionate admirer of Elena Ferrante’s sequence of novels about how such friendships can mark women for life. It is hard not to see this book as an act of homage.

Shorter and at first glance simpler than not just Ferrante’s books but also Messud’s own acclaimed novels about sophisticated New Yorkers (The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children), The Burning Girl is set in small-town New England among characters whose lives and options appear limited, though Messud invests them with

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