From the New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor's Children, a brilliant new novel: the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed, and betrayed by passion and desire for a world beyond her own.
Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who long ago abandoned her ambition to be a successful artist, has become the "woman upstairs", a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her classroom walks Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents - dashing Skandar, a Lebanese scholar and professor at the École Normale Supérleure; and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist - have come to Boston for Skandar to take up a fellowship at Harvard. When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who call him a "terrorist" Nora is drawn into the complex world of the Shahid family: She finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora's happiness explodes her boundaries, until Sirena's careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal. Told with urgency, intimacy, and piercing emotion, this story of obsession and artistic fulfillment explores the thrill - and the devastating cost - of giving in to one's passions.
©2013 Claire Messud (P)2013 Random House Audio
The good reviews sucked me in to listening to this rather tedious book. I found the main character to be generally unlikeable and, honestly, couldn't have cared less about what happened to her. The "surprising" ending I had been expecting was pretty anti-climactic and I was just happy to have it all end. Although well written, I can't say this was a particularly captivating story.
I read and listen to a lot of books but I rarely write reviews because taste is so subjective. I like narrater Cassandra Campbell but not for this novel. I picture a harder charactor with a harsher attitude. It comes off as a Hallmark movie of the week and I think it was meant to be deeper. More like Sundance Channel after hours.
Say something about yourself!
Oh my gosh... book was good, but I wanted to shake her. She just just never took control of her own happiness. If it happened to her, she was grateful, but she missed out on so much because she wouldn't go for what she wanted. And honestly, I'm not sure what she wanted. The point of the story was that she didn't KNOW what she wanted. I get that - I suffer from it - but it was frustrating to listen to it.
You know how you can look at other people's lives and think, "I know what you need... you should do x...", but you don't know what you need for your own life? That's this book in a nutshell.
There is nothing better than a good book!
I LOVE this! Twisted, dark, honest, and so intimate. This is a must have! The end will shock you...
Don't waste your credit. Cassandra Campbell is an excellent reader. She gives wonderful voice to the characters. The story itself is more than disappointing. Nora is unlikeable and vacuous. I kept waiting for something to give some point and meaning to the story but like the rest of the book, the ending was pointless and disappointing.
This novel, like the main male character in the work, needs to be less a talker. Lots of meaningless, seemingly endless chatter, or so it seems. A few lovely sentences but not enough to sustain all the noise.
I loved Messud's THE EMPEROR'S CHILDREN and would still recommend that.
She captures most of the characters really well and performs a range of accents and age groups. She does least well with the main character, who is from New England--a slight Southern accent peeks through.
Skip this book and read the first one if you haven't.
I may be impatient and superficial, but I just don't get this book. It's not that it's bad - it's just not going anywhere. Halfway through it, I've decided to put it aside and not bother unless there's nothing else to read. I understand it's a story about frustration and anger, but it falls short of almost every mark. It's too narrow in its focus - we don't know (almost) anything about her life outside her obsession, though life and affections exist on the fringes of obsession in every case. And I'm tired of the cliches on academics and the rarefied world they inhabit - and I'm also very suspicious of her reading of foreignness, which I find superficial and downright silly at times.
Yes, I already have listened to specific chapters again. The story was beautifully crafted and honest. It showed a depth of understanding of the experiences of the unmarried, childless woman in mid life. This is a subject matter rarely touched on in any form.
I did not have a favorite character as the perceptions of the narrator seemed to be the only character. The other characters were not seen from other points of view. I neither liked or disliked the narrator, didn't even wonder whether I liked or disliked the narrator. I instantly became fascinated with the honesty and bare vulnerability of the story and wanted to know the narrator's journey. I just do not often find this level of honesty. I made no judgments on her life, just interested in knowing her.
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