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When the World Was Steady

A Novel

Claire Messud (Author)


A PEN/Faulkner Award finalist about two sisters’ divergent paths, from the author of The Burning Girl and The Emperor’s Children.

In this highly acclaimed novel, life isn’t all Emmy and Virginia Simpson anticipated. When Emmy’s marriage ends, she flees her home in Sydney to “find herself” on the island of Bali—only to become embroiled with a crew of international misfits and smugglers. Her prim and pious sister Virginia, meanwhile, has never wandered far outside of London. Struggling to find meaning, Virginia follows her aging mother’s advice to vacation on the Isle of Skye. On these two islands halfway around the world, the middle-aged sisters confront the costs of self-knowledge and their destinies with unexpected consequences.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • August 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35509-3
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 368 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Assured and engaging.” — James Marcus, New York Times Book Review

“A beautiful, bittersweet story about the painful cost of self-knowledge and the unpredictability of life.” — Publishers Weekly

“A tenderly ironic double portrait of two hapless middle-aged English sisters who travel to very different islands.” — Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books

“As exceptional in quality as it is in content…an outstanding first novel.” — Observer

Also by Claire Messud All

  1. Book CoverThe Burning Girl: A Novel


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