The Woman Upstairs

Front Cover
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013 - Fiction - 253 pages
45 Reviews

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor's Children, a masterly new novel: the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed and betrayed by a desire for a world beyond her own.

Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, long ago compromised her dream to be a successful artist, mother and lover. She has instead become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and neighbor always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her life arrives the glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahids—her new student Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale, and his parents: Skandar, a dashing Lebanese professor who has come to Boston for a fellowship at Harvard, and Sirena, an effortlessly alluring Italian artist.

When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies, Nora is drawn deep 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, and she discovers in herself an unprecedented ferocity—one that puts her beliefs and her sense of self at stake.

Told with urgency, intimacy and piercing emotion, this brilliant novel of passion and artistic fulfillment explores the intensity, thrill—and the devastating cost—of embracing an authentic life.

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Oh yes, this is great storytelling. - LibraryThing
Messud is a marvelous writer. - LibraryThing
And a fabulously strong surprise ending. - LibraryThing
She's also an exquisite writer. - LibraryThing
I kind of think she deserved this ending. - LibraryThing
Did not like the characters or the plot. - LibraryThing

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - NancyNo5 - LibraryThing

This is a novel about Nora Eldridge who is approaching middle age and is realizing her life is passing her by. As characters go, Nora is tiresome and needy but that's what the book is about; a lonely ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - bowedbookshelf - LibraryThing

Oh yes, this is great storytelling. This wonderfully atmospheric novel-in-miniature is more like a giant short story with a surprise ending. There are a limited number of characters—one, really—whom ... Read full review

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About the author (2013)

Claire Messud's most recent novel, The Emperor's Children, was a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, and her book of novellas, The Hunters, were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and her second novel, The Last Life, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Editor's Choice at The Village Voice. All four books were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Messud has been awarded Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

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