Electric Literature is thrilled to reveal the cover for acclaimed writer Claire Messud’s new novel, This Strange Eventful History, which will be published by W. W. Norton & Company in May 2024.
Spanning seventy years, Claire Messud’s forthcoming novel, This Strange Eventful History, tells an intimate yet expansive story inspired by the author’s own family history. A family separated in the chaos of World War II, the Cassars live in an itinerant state, constantly on the run from a messy colonial homeland. At the center of this novel is the patriarch, Gaston, and his wife, Lucienne, who strive to maintain an illusion of perfect, gracious love. Their children, though stifled by that mythology, are devoted to one another, François and Denise. Sweeping through generations, it’s Chloe, daughter of François and the result of his cross-cultural union with Barbara, who brings the family’s secrets to the surface, clinging to the belief that telling these long-buried stories will finally bring them all some peace.
This Strange Eventful History is a masterpiece—at once tender and filled with turmoil, immersive, and bringing forward the richly animated interior lives of characters you will fall in love with, all while finding their way amidst the social and political upheaval of a recently vanished world.
Here is the cover, designed by Jaya Miceli.
“A sweeping, ambitious novel inspired by the author’s own family history, This Strange Eventful History travels across seven decades between Salonica, Algeria, New England, Toronto, Australia, and France,” says Ingsu Liu, art director. “Through each unfolding decade, the past and the future simultaneously surround and envelop the Cassar family, expanding the story of one family into a story of the second half of the 20th century. The jacket design explored over 60+ iterations but, in the end, it was an image the author forwarded of her father that took our breath away. The brilliant designer Jaya Miceli distilled the complexity of the story and kept the design simple and cinematic, with the repeated French passport stamp hinting both at the five family perspectives in the novel, and also at how the family comes apart and back together again.”
Claire Messud similarly notes how the cover reflects the expansive nature of the narrative, as well as its connection to her own family history: “I absolutely love the cover. The novel, which spans 70 years from 1940-2010, is inspired by family history, and in particular by the peripatetic trajectory of my father’s life. Born in France, he grew up in the Middle East and North Africa, then studied in the United States and worked in Europe, Australia, and Canada before eventually settling here in the U.S. The characters in the novel are fictional, but that’s my dad on the cover, lighting a cigarette. He’s in Switzerland here, with a lake and vast mountains in a bluish haze behind him—to me, that nature evokes the world entirely, dwarfing the human figure. I love the mottled pale blue of the background, and the bright punctuating red of the French government stamps from the time of the French mandate in Syria and Lebanon—they’re from an earlier moment historically, but that, too, is part of the characters’ lives, and of the novel.”