Messud’ s life has significantly influenced her interest to explore various cultures through writing like the multiculturalism they portrayed in most of her novels. In the works by Messud, three major themes run through her novels: multiculturalism, exile, and displacement (Amoia and Knapp 346). Throughout her novels, female protagonists grapple with finding their niche and cultural identity in the midst of historical injustices and family problems. This aspect is specifically a part of the author’ s life since she has to identify herself with either of the three cultures; American, Canadian, or French.
In When the World was Steady, the sisters have been brought up to value the security that the family has to offer (Amoia and Knapp 346). However, unexpected events disrupt that security. As a result, they embark on an emotional journey to adapt to the new realities. Following a bitter divorce, Emmy, the younger sister is forced to leave Australia for Bali. Virginia goes through a series of devastating events that cause her to question her faith. Together with her mother, Virginia travels from London back to their rural home in Scotland.
Having been used to the comfort of life in big cities, the two sisters must now quickly come to terms with their new lives. Sagasse Le Basse, the main character in The Last Life is the fifteen-year-old daughter of exiled parents (Amoia and Knapp 347). Her mother is an American who was forced to move to France. Her father, a French-Algerian, is also forced to move to France in the wake of independence: his family considered him a traitor for collaborating with the colonialists. Thus, when their country gained independence, they expelled him from the family.
In the face of forced relocation, unrealized family dreams and the ripple effects of many years of deprivation during colonialism, Sagesse must find her identity as a woman. The breakdown of their family is brought to the fore when Sagesse’ s commits what the girl considers a cruel act: she bars her from meeting her friends and making new ones.
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