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The Last Life

The Last Life is the story of Sagesse LaBasse, and her French-Algerian family, which left Algiers during the political upheavals of the 1950s to settle in the south of France. I thought The Last Life was a memoir, until about a quarter of the way through I looked up the author, Claire Messud, and read her brief bio on Wikipedia. I found out Messud was born in Greenwich, Connecticut and grew up in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Messud's mother is Canadian, and her father is Algerian. So while her book is not a memoir, as a reader, I feel as if many of the underlying themes are true to Messud's family (but I am just making assumptions here; I do not know). Sagesse's family, French colonists who fled Algeria, are pieds-noirs, "torn between their country of origin and their national identity, doomed to be refugees in what ought to be their home." (source) Writing in first person perspective, Sagesse tells the story from two perspectives, recreating her 14- and 15-year-old self while at the same time looking back on her choices with an older self's retrospective wisdom. As a result, the reader gets a layered view of the LaBasse family. Behind the family drama lays a mythologized Algiers, a lost paradise; a vision of "sparkling white buildings climbing the hillside behind the port, the azure glitter of the bay, the alleys of steps winding towards the sky..." The story itself was interesting enough to keep you reading, but I don't think I would recommend it to you unless you really have nothing else to read at the moment. Rating: ★★★

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The Cellist of Sarajevo