The Woman Upstairs Epub á The Woman Epub /


The Woman Upstairs A New York Times  Book Review Notable Book • A Washington Post Top Ten Book of the Year • A Chicago Tribune Noteworthy Book • A Huffington Post Best Book • A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year • A Kirkus Best Fiction Book • A Goodreads Best BookNora Eldridge is a reliable but unremarkable friend and neighbor always on the fringe of other people’s achievements But the arrival of the Shahid family—dashing Skandar a Lebanese scholar glamorous Sirena an Italian artist and their son Reza—draws her into a complex and exciting new world Nora’s happiness pushes her beyond her boundaries until Sirena’s careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal Told with urgency intimacy and piercing emotion this New York Times bestselling novel is the riveting confession of a woman awakened transformed and abandoned by a desire for a world beyond her own The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud is a 2013 Knopf publication I checked out this book after looking through a ‘Booklist’ with listed books centered around betrayal and obsession I’d never heard of it but it sounded intriguing The story starts off with Nora Eldridge meeting a new student in her class which puts her in touch with the boy’s mother Sirena The two women discover they share a passion for art and become very good friends even renting a studio together But Nora has just lost her mother is caring for her elderly father is not married and her life hasn’t exactly panned out like she had intended For whatever reason she begins to latch onto her new friend Sirena her husband Skandar and their son Reza The attachment uickly escalates into an unhealthy obsession and of course this never ends well But this story has an added twist to that theme and it’s the anticipation of that development that kept me turning pages wondering when the other shoe was going to drop Well hum I’m not sure what to make of this one Nora is one weird chickadee I suppose she had dedicated so much time to caring for her mother going through the normal routine of teaching school and hanging out with her regular friends that she was looking for some kind of excitement something or someone to come along and pull her out of her ordinary routine and add a dash of color to her otherwise dull existence But I didn’t understand the depth of that attachment or why she clung to it so ferociously for so long Without seeming to realize it she traded her bland routine for another routine one that still kept her from being fully appreciated or living life outside her comfort zone The bombshell is a real stunner and would certainly account for the roiling anger Nora is expressing at the beginning of the book It was of course the final straw for Nora You’ll have to read the book to see how she responds to this revelation This is a character study than anything and the story only remains interesting for a while then soon begins to drag so that it was almost torturous having to slog through the last uarter of the book which was dull and lifeless just to get to the big reveal The story came to a shockingly abrupt end but the point was made succinctly so perhaps nothing need be added Overall this one was slightly off the beaten path for me but had its merits It wasn’t great but it was okay 3 stars The Woman Upstairs is an occasion to reawaken a literary hot button that I love the unlikeable character Plenty of people hated The Emperor’s Children for the same reason they hated The Corrections couldn’t relate tosympathize with the characters wouldn’t want to be friends with them etc In a Publishers Weekly interview Messud was asked about Nora her dutiful but rage filled 40 something schoolteacherwannabe artist whose life is reawakened but then betrayed by a charismatic expat and successful artist her charming 8 year old son and her scholarly husband “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim” To which Messud replies “What kind of uestion is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Hamlet?Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov?If you’re reading to find friends you’re in deep trouble We read to find life in all its possibilities The relevant uestion isn’t 'is this a potential friend for me?' but 'is this character alive?'This resonates in a big way with me Isn't that why we read to have complete access to a character’s deepest thoughts and feelings in all their messiness whether via the first person or third? The kind of access we don't get to even our closest friends and relatives in real life? But a very smart Goodreads review of this novel also notes “I read to find friends and shame on any fiction writer who tries to embarrass me for that I can't recall a single thrilling reading experience in my life that wasn't about connecting to the characters”Which to me just solidifies the act of reading as one of the most creatively subjective pursuits there is; you can’t say a person isn't a discerning reader for having an honest reaction to a story's unlikeable characters But at the same time I don’t like to think that The Woman Upstairs could be dismissed on this issue aloneSo what of the novel? It’s not for everyone Is Nora unlikeable? Sure She’s also angry and lonely and carries the burden of her family’s past along with her But she’s not a character without very real humanity Her furious all too apparent self consciousness the way she sometimes bathes almost luxuriously in her anger may be unrelatable and perhaps even repulsive but it’s impossible not to be moved by her desire to ultimately transcend that anger in her uest to live an authentic life To her each member of the Shahid family “in my impassioned interior conversations granted me some aspect of my most dearly held most fiercely hidden heart’s desires life art motherhood love and the great seductive promise that I wasn’t nothing that I could be seen for my unvarnished self and that this hidden self this precious girl without a mask unseen for decades could that she must indeed leave a trace upon the world” While it may not sway some readers for me this makes Nora's likeability completely irrelevant I can’t read lines like this and not be moved Hmmm Lots of thoughts There is brilliance here in how Messud takes up anger hunger and loneliness There are many problems here like THERE IS NO PLOT This is the kind of book that makes people hate literary fiction My biggest issue though is that so much of the prose is aimless and not in a compelling way Also 37 in Cambridge is NOT THE END OF THE LINE That is not middle aged In a city like Cambridge 37 is when many women might think Maybe I'll settle down and have some kids This is not universally true but still Come on And maybe I'm just being oversensitive but I don't feel middle aged at all I don't feel young I'm not delusional But I still feel like there's a lot of life yet to live so I'm probably personalizing this a bit I just feel like framing Nora as a spinster misses the mark And also the very end is so sharp and so breathtaking and I wish the rest of the book was as good Middle aged my ass Also it's weird how anger is articulated but rarely shown here Anger seems like an idea than an actual emotion If you're interested in a book with unlikeable unreliable characters hints of possible drama obsession and betrayal melancholy and whining endless run on narrative from the main character a plot that bogs down completely and a rushed ending then have I got the book for you I decided to read The Woman Upstairs after hearing an interview with Claire Messud on NPR; the book was touted as a saga of anger and thwarted ambition While there was plenty of anger I couldn't find the ambition part Unmarried childless elementary school teacher Nora Eldridge thinks “It was supposed to say ‘Great Artist’ on my tombstone but if I died right now it would say ‘such a good teacherdaughterfriend’ instead” She becomes infatuated with the whole Shahid family and because of this association she resumes some of her own artistic endeavors only to let them get crowded out due to her obsession There is a possibility that I didn't 'get' this book because I'm not terribly sophisticated and don't understand 'Great Artists' but it seems to me that adjusting our aspirations is something every single one of us has to deal with as we grow older I hope I'm dealing with it in a mature productive and reasonable way than the deluded and angry Nora

  • Paperback
  • 302 pages
  • The Woman Upstairs
  • Claire Messud
  • English
  • 20 February 2016
  • 9780307743763

About the Author: Claire Messud

Claire Messud is an American novelist and literature and creative writing professor She is best known as the author of the 2006 novel The Emperor's Children She lives with her husband and family in Cambridge MassachusettsBorn in Greenwich Connecticut Messud grew up in the United States Australia and Canada returning to the United States as a teenager Messud's mother is Canadian and her


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