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The Woman Upstairs

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The stunning new novel from Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children, a top ten NYT bestseller

About the Author

Claire Messud was born in 1966 and was educated at Yale and at Cambridge. She is the author of three novels including The Emperor's Children, a New York Times bestseller, and two novellas. She lives in Boston with her husband and their two children.


It's not that elementary school teacher Nora Eldridge's life has gone particularly wrong, it's that it hasn't gone particularly right. She sold out her artistic dreams for success and stability, and become angry and full of self-loathing somewhere along the way. But when a young student, Reza Shahid, and his family enter her life, Nora finds herself changing as she is drawn into the Shahids' world. Cassadra Campbell's narration is pitch-perfect. She shifts back and forth between the different characters, lending all of them unique voices that capture their complexity. Her first-person narration is a delightful blend of restraint and emotion that will keeps listeners slightly anxious at all the right moments. By striking this balance, she captures the hard edge of Nora-and of the text-in a way that will resonate with listeners. A Knopf hardcover. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

The setup in this elegant winner of a novel seems so obvious; aren't warning bells sounding for Nora Eldridge? A middle-aged Boston-area elementary school teacher and artist manque who cuttingly describes herself as "the woman upstairs"-someone who can be depended on to be dependable-Nora is enthralled when sweet, smart, charming Reza Shadid enters her class. His Lebanese-born father has left a post in Paris to teach in America for a year, while his Italian-born mother, the appropriately named Sirena, is an artist of some renown. Together, this worldly, glamorous family seduces Nora, with Sirena especially culpable. She talks Nora into sharing a studio with her, and soon Nora is opening to all the possibilities life has to offer-possibilities she thought were dead and gone forever. Verdict This quietly, tensely unfolding story is related in retrospect, so we know from the start that it has ended badly for Nora. The only question is how. Remarkably, Messud (The Emperor's Children) lets us experience Nora's betrayal as if it were our own, and what finally happens really is a punch in the stomach. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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