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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

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  •  
    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
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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...

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Priscilla ROSLINDALE, MA, United States 05-22-13
    Priscilla ROSLINDALE, MA, United States 05-22-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Will Avoid This Narrator in the Future!"
    What did you like best about The Woman Upstairs? What did you like least?

    I think that we have all had moments in our lives when we come to a painful realization that a person or persons that we are enamored with, and have built our whole existence and fantasies around, does not feel the same way about us. Hopefully most of us, however, are not dealt the type of shattering betrayal experienced by Nora, the perpetual "woman upstairs". The story portrays this pain eloquently, although it left me with left me with an unsatisfied thirst for revenge! However, I did not like this narrator, Cassandra Campbell at all. Her excessively slow, pretentious melodramatic style of reading, and above all her overly enunciated diction, were highly annoying distractions which often tempted me to discontinue listening altogether. Some of her dialog was better, although again I found her Italian accents extremely annoying as well.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The emotional complexities of Nora's feelings toward each member of the Sayid family are very compelling.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Cassandra Campbell?

    I think I would have liked anyone better. One of the narrators of The Help, maybe - they were all excellent


    Do you think The Woman Upstairs needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    A Getting Revenge Book, maybe - seriously though, no follow-up needed - probably what happens next in Nora's life is best left to the imagination


    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane LANGLEY, WA, United States 05-28-13
    Diane LANGLEY, WA, United States 05-28-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Disappointing"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I don't know.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Claire Messud again?

    Probably not.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Cassandra Campbell?

    Yes.


    What character would you cut from The Woman Upstairs?

    No one.


    Any additional comments?

    I probably heard a review of this on NPR which is from where I usually choose books; expect good NPR reviews to be good books. This book could have been condensed to a short story. Ending is surprising, but the rest of the book was boring; I kept expecting something more from the characters and story than I got. Both just sort of droned on.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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