There is something mesmerizing about a girlhood friendship that is so close and adventurous, symbiotic and impenetrable.
In real life it can be intoxicating, in fiction, life-changing. Such is the case with Claire Messud's new novel, "The Burning Girl," in which two girls become best friends in nursery school and go on to grow together into the crevices of each other's minds, while also sharing the deep desire to leave the confines of their small fictional town of Royston, Mass. In many ways, "The Burning Girl" tells a familiar, hyper-gendered tale of adolescent friendship gone awry. The bond between its main characters, Cassie and Julia, evokes Sula and Nel in Toni Morrison's "Sula"; the ill-fated pact between Pauline and Juliet in the film "Heavenly Creatures," based on the Parker—Hulme murder case in Christchurch, New Zealand; and of course, the celebrated, fraught and ongoing companionship between Lenu and Lila in the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante.
Friendly Songs - Personalized For Cassie by Personalized Kid Music on Apple Music
All of these friendships involve a pairing of empathic, compelling and somehow resolutely feminine girls, each with something the other needs or wants, cherishes or romanticizes, rejects or manipulates. When they first met, Cassie "had shiny, white-blond hair, almost albino she was so fair, her skin translucent and a little pink.
But you'd be wrong to mistake her size and pallor for frailty. The summer before middle school, the girls are at their most curious, most attached.
Cassie & Chris
It is the apex of their friendship, a time when they listen to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga on their iPods, adopt kittens and name them Electra and Xena, and dream of becoming veterinarians and pop stars. They take jobs at the nearby animal shelter, where Cassie has a freak encounter with a pit bull that ends up dictating the limitations and options for the remaining weeks of the summer. This is when they discover the quarry and what lies beyond it inside the notoriously abandoned women's mental asylum the Bonnybrook, which both solidifies their bond and foreshadows its daunting future.
Messud, whose previous books include the bestselling novels "The Woman Upstairs" and "The Emperor's Children," both of which I read and admire, is an absolute master storyteller and bafflingly good writer: "The woods were at once very quiet and not quiet at all: things popped or flicked or thudded, birds chirped and hooted, the breeze spoke through the leaves. Julia's father, a rather nondescript dentist, is always quick to defend his daughter against the predictable harping by his wife regarding homework, behavior and responsibilities, while Julia's mother, a freelance journalist, changes the station when a song by Eminem and Rihanna comes on the car radio because, "I'm sorry, but as a feminist, I object.
See a Problem?
Eminem and Rihanna have collaborated on a number of songs, but given the time frame, one assumes the reference here is to their hit " Love the Way You Lie ," which is about a couple trying to reconcile with their mutually abusive relationship. Average rating 3.
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Young Adult. About Sara Casey. Sara Casey.