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The Woman Upstairs | [Claire Messud]

The Woman Upstairs

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.4 (366 )
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3.8 (314 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Anne 01-05-14
    Anne 01-05-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    81
    18
    FOLLOWERS
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    1
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Why bother?"

    I may not feel fondness for them, but I can usually grow interested in unlikeable characters as I come to understand the history or motives that drive them, or even the necessities of the plot. Liking the character is the least of my requirements for a compelling read. In this special case, I spent the entire considerable length of this recording feeling my dislike grow into loathing for the main character and feeling worse and worse about listening. What was the point of this unremitting avalanche of hatred, with every plot development and nuance carefully detailed? She comes across not as mentally ill, but just as a really crummy person.

    Why bother listening (or reading) about a person who is unremittingly self absorbed and selfish, who has no redeeming qualities and who is swindled by people equally selfish, albeit more glamorous and well dressed? In my case I guess I was holding out for some meaning beyond that there are people in life one should avoid. The only lesson I learned was to avoid Clare Messud.

    I disliked the narration as well, but given how awful the character was, perhaps that was good reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie Clearlake, CA, United States 11-13-13
    Stephanie Clearlake, CA, United States 11-13-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    48
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    37
    36
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    Story
    "So Tedious"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen M. Downes 08-27-13

    karen downes

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    31
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    "BOOORING"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane PLACERVILLE, CA, United States 05-24-13
    Diane PLACERVILLE, CA, United States 05-24-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Study is simpering self absorbtion"

    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.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leigh Mount Pleasant, SC United States 05-07-13
    Leigh Mount Pleasant, SC United States 05-07-13 Member Since 2013

    There is nothing better than a good book!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    "Absolutely AMAZING!"

    I LOVE this! Twisted, dark, honest, and so intimate. This is a must have! The end will shock you...

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karla 06-06-13
    Karla 06-06-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
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    47
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    "Two-Page Sample is great, and then it's downhill!"
    What would have made The Woman Upstairs better?

    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.


    Has The Woman Upstairs turned you off from other books in this genre?

    I loved Messud's THE EMPEROR'S CHILDREN and would still recommend that.


    What about Cassandra Campbell’s performance did you like?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    Skip this book and read the first one if you haven't.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilinca Romania 05-31-13
    Ilinca Romania 05-31-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    96
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    "not sure it's going anywhere..."

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn Canton, MI United States 06-28-14
    Lynn Canton, MI United States 06-28-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    3
    3
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    0
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    "Interesting, to a point"
    What made the experience of listening to The Woman Upstairs the most enjoyable?

    I enjoyed the story, for the most part. But I thought the ending was bizarre and not worth the journey. It left me with a sense that the woman upstairs definitely needs therapy.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anastasia Lester Peachtree City, GA United States 03-05-14
    Anastasia Lester Peachtree City, GA United States 03-05-14 Member Since 2013

    Reading Mom

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Crazy Story"
    Would you try another book from Claire Messud and/or Cassandra Campbell?

    No, I will not try another book by this author.


    What could Claire Messud have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    It seems to me that the author used foul language for the purpose of making the story more sensational. I did not like the way it ended - was there even a REAL ending???


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    The performance was fine. If you have terrible material, it's hard to have a great performance, but the narrator did her part.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    This could have been a better story. The character deserve one another.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 06-04-13
    Suze Jackson, NJ, United States 06-04-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Huge Waste of my Time"
    What disappointed you about The Woman Upstairs?

    Eleven hours of absolute drivel. Yes...I liked the narrater and Im confident that the author is probably a good writer but this book did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR ME.
    The characters did nothing for me...they were boring, and, it took eleven hours to get to the ridiculous twist at the end...which still had no real ending.
    I almost feel angry that it wasted so much of my time that could have been spent on a book with a decent story.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Inferno, Dan Brown


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Cassandra Campbell?

    possibly


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    utter disappointment.


    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
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