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.
Nora 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.
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 GlobeBest Book of the Year • A Kirkus Best Fiction Book • A Goodreads Best Book
The gifted Messud, writing her way through the ages, has now arrived at a woman in her 40s and it s not pretty. Nora Eldridge, a schoolteacher who dreams of being an artist, is angry, cynical, and quietly desperate. Then she meets the Shahid family: Sirena, Skandar, and Reza, a student in Nora s third-grade class at Appleton Elementary in Cambridge, Mass. When Sirena asks Nora to share an artists studio, Nora falls in love with each exotic Shahid in turn: Sirena, for her artistic vision; Skandar, for his intellectual fervor; and Reza, because he s a perfectly beautiful child, bullied at school but magnanimous. In her previous books, Messud (The Emperor s Children) has set individuals against the weight of kin; here is an individual who believes she s found a vigorous self in the orbit of a dangerously charismatic family. But after freeing Nora from herself, the Shahids betray her, Sirena especially, cruelly exploiting a private moment of Nora s newfound joy with an intimate work of art Sirena shows in Paris without Nora s knowledge. As with other Messud characters, these too are hard to love; few would want to know the unpalatable Nora, so full of self-loathing, nor the self-important Shahids.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This acclaimed novel has generated a great deal of buzz this month, including an appearance by Ms. Messud on NPR. Though I enjoyed her prose and some clever passages, the impact of the novel does not occur until the last few pages. The twist generated some interesting thought afterwards, but felt predictable. It's an interesting novel, but reading it once was enough for me.
The Woman Upstairs
I loved this book! I actually have read it twice. I was drawn in immediately by the narrators anger. I had a huge identification with her, both her anger and her feeling that she'd always been a good girl. I was surprised by how readily she fell in love with her student's entire family, and by her fantasy relationship with them when they returned to Paris. The final betrayal shocked me almost as much as it did the woman upstairs. I have just purchased another e book by the same author and am eager to start reading it.
Such introverted writer has no business being on my shelf. By the time I ended this book, I was depressed. I mean, seriously, the whole book was long, characters were unlikable and I didn't care about any of them. The story isn't believable in this day and age and would have made sense was it written in the 1950s. Sorry.