The Burning Girl review: Assured tale of lives and loves in New England
Claire Messud is a generous, assured and reassuring storyteller
Claire Messud. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
The Burning Girl
The Burning Girl is one of those novels that might be picked up out of curiosity, but it is most certainly hard to put down; a tale of youthful innocence, friendship, guided freedom and loving relationships that criss-cross our lives, if we’re lucky. Cassie Burnes and Julia Robinson have been friends since they were toddlers in a small New England town, and have shared all their childhood and growing-up experiences. The story begins when the girls are 11, and proceeds through their teens, with all the ups and downs of school, family and small-town lives. Into their story is woven a creeping, unsettled feeling, which climaxes in Cassie running away from home in an attempt to find her father, whom she had been brought up to think was dead. Messud is a generous, assured and reassuring storyteller; her characters are full of contradictory emotions, stoicism, yearning and fire, characters we can recognise as ourselves and in those whom we love.