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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

3.5 (415 )
5 star
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Story
3.9 (359 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Debra Johnson San Antonio, Texas United States 06-10-15
    Debra Johnson San Antonio, Texas United States 06-10-15 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    185
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    "Could not put it down!"

    Enjoyed it so much! I can't believe this was the subject material that turned into a mini-storm over likable characters. Of course Nora is likable. And not likable. It's a brilliant portrait of a whole person, including a great deal of contemplation on the artificial nature of personal charm. Brilliant novel. I loved every minute.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bridget Bridget 03-28-15 Member Since 2013

    another girl, another planet

    ratings
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    22
    2
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    Story
    "Well-written story with subjectively bad narration"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I haven't listened to other books by this reader but I don't think I will be able to as her intonation here on every third sentence made me want to scream. She sounded every few lines exactly like Jenna Mulroney (an irritatingly vapid character from NBC's 30 Rock) which distracted me from the story.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sarah 03-13-15
    Sarah 03-13-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    Performance
    Story
    "Decent book"

    Pretty good story. I liked it - nice twist at the end especially, but I didn't love it and found the character a bit pathetic at times. But maybe that was the point. I was also distracted by the noticeable echo in this recording. It sounded as if the reader hadn't soundproofed her studio properly.

    0 of 0 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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    0
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    Story
    "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
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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
    209
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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
  •  
    Janice United States 05-20-13
    Janice United States 05-20-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    7
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    "Don't waste your time."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Making it into a short story.


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

    Less droning on about what the reader thinks.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The narrator did her best with the material.


    Any additional comments?

    Move on to another choice if you are thinking of listening to this.

    1 of 2 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 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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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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