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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 Ratings

Overall

  • 3.5 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    129
  • 4 Stars
    156
  • 3 Stars
    137
  • 2 Stars
    75
  • 1 Stars
    26

Performance

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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    172
  • 4 Stars
    142
  • 3 Stars
    89
  • 2 Stars
    35
  • 1 Stars
    14

Story

  • 3.4 out of 5.0
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    111
  • 4 Stars
    128
  • 3 Stars
    118
  • 2 Stars
    66
  • 1 Stars
    40
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Definitely Recommend

Would you listen to The Woman Upstairs again? Why?

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.

Who was your favorite character and why?

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.

  • Overall
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Completely absorbing

Superb book with narration to match. Cassandra Campbell brings the characters to vivid life with all their complexities.

  • Overall
  • Performance
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Inside and out will transform you

Be careful. This book packs a punch you may not expect. worth the time investment. Keep reading.

  • Overall
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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.

  • Overall
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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.

  • Overall
  • Performance
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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.

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  • Lynn
  • Canton, MI United States
  • 06-28-14

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.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Anastasia
  • Peachtree City, GA United States
  • 03-05-14

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

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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.<br/>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.<br/>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

  • Overall
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  • Story

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