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.
"Disturbing, Frustrating, Messed Up and AWESOME!"
Friends at Brown University, Marina, Danielle, and Julius are still looking to make their marks as they approach their 30s. Marina lives with her celebrated parents on the Upper West Side while trying to complete her book. TV producer Danielle's success is due to the puff pieces she churns out. Freelance critic Julius can barely make ends meet. Into this mix comes Bootie, Marina's college dropout cousin, who is just the catalyst the three friends need to start making significant changes in their lives.
"Suzanne Toren a makes a good book great"
Claire Messud discusses her New York Times Best Book of 2006 with fellow novelist Valerie Martin. The Emperor's Children is a brilliant contemporary novel of manners that puts under a magnifying glass the flawed ambitions of three college friends on the verge of their 30s, trying to make a place for themselves in New York. To set the tone for this enticing discussion, actress Hope Davis reads an excerpt from the book.
The New York Times best-selling author of the literary page-turner The Emperor's Children discusses her richly drawn new novel, The Woman Upstairs, with Meghan O'Rourke (The Long Goodbye). Her latest release is a riveting compulsively readable (and listenable) confession of a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Mass, drawn into the complex world of her new neighbors - a Lebanese scholar and professor of Ethical History, his glamorous Italian artist wife, and their son.