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The Woman Upstairs (Vintage Contemporaries) Kindle Edition

726 customer reviews

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Length: 321 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2013: If this ferocious novel were to have a subtitle, it would be: No More Ms. Nice Guy. "How angry am I? You don’t want to know. Nobody wants to know about that," barks Nora Eldridge, our 42-year-old protagonist, an aesthete-wannabe who has slid into the bourgeois suburban life of a schoolteacher. Solipsistically lonely, Nora befriends--a polite term here for what is more like "stalks"--the artist-mother of one of her students; she also insinuates herself into the life of the woman's husband. That trouble will ensue is obvious to everyone but Nora, who for all her paranoia, is stunningly blind about using and being used. But in the end, maybe Nora doesn’t even care what she has suffered; at least, for once, she has lived, as she will continue to do in the minds of all of us who've read about her. --Sara Nelson

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In this acid bath of a novel, the superlative Messud (The Emperor’s Children, 2006) immolates an iconic figure—the good, quiet, self-sacrificing woman—with exhilarating velocity, fury, and wit while taking on the vicissitudes of family life and the paradoxes of art. Nora, our archly funny, venomous, and raging 42-year-old narrator, recounts her thirty-seventh year, when she was living alone and teaching third grade in Boston after the death of her profoundly frustrated mother. Nora longs to make art but hasn’t mustered the necessary conviction. Enter the Paris-based Shahids. Reza, her new student, is a magnet for bullies stirred up by post-9/11 xenophobia. His Palestinian Lebanese father, Skandar, is a prominent academic spending a year at Harvard. His Italian mother, Sirena, is an artist in need of a studio and a studio mate. She promptly recruits Nora. A confident and passionate conduit for mythological powers, Sirena creates “lush gardens and jungles made out of household items and refuse.” Unworldly and lonely Nora, a veritable daughter of Ibsen, builds dollhouses—small, painstakingly accurate replicas of the rooms occupied by women artists ranging from Emily Dickinson to Edie Sedgwick. Messud’s scorching social anatomy, red-hot psychology, galvanizing story, and incandescent language make for an all-circuits-firing novel about enthrallment, ambition, envy, and betrayal. A tour de force portraying a no longer invisible or silent “woman upstairs.” --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • File Size: 3459 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 30, 2013)
  • Publication Date: April 30, 2013
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A1O4L50
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,674 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

269 of 284 people found the following review helpful By Tanya Willow on June 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Most of the reviews of the book are overly harsh or overly praising. It's a pretty good book, and as some have complained, with sections that are a little drawn out and repetitive.

The criticism I think that is without merit is that the character isn't likable. The character is an accurate human portrait and if any of us were laid to bare the way this character honestly expresses her feelings and thoughts, I think we too would be less than likable.

Years ago I heard this woman explain an entire attitude of certain women as the ``smugly married." It's easy to look down your nose at her if you have all the adornments of female success, the most important of which is that someone has found you sexually desirable enough to marry you. And once you have children, the deal is sealed. You are woman, hear you roar!

But if you got overly fussy, maybe thought something better was coming, or there was a split or almost no suitors and the shadows grow long on the dock, you do sense that you will probably never marry and most certainly now, never have children. This is of course the reality for Nora, the now spinster school teacher, whose mother who loved her is dead and whose aging father needs her. Nora is the utility person. Life's bat boy. The filler of water bottles and cleaner of equipment but never gets to play the game. The center of no one's life but the agent of many lives. A person of talent unexpressed and un-honed which time will turn to mediocrity because it was simply never developed. A person so inconsequential that those she thinks are closest to her will humiliate her if it serves their own ends. And she's angry because now she knows all this with certainty.

Naturally, she has lied to herself about this truth. It's called coping.
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301 of 336 people found the following review helpful By B. Case TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Woman Upstairs," by Claire Messud, is a first rate psychological thriller that will keep readers spellbound, in the style of a classic Hitchcock film, right up until the final pages, where a stunning twist illuminates and clarifies the whole. This is a very smart, savvy novel--one that provides sustained story telling, literary, and intellectually pleasure. In fact, it is one of the best books I've reviewed all year.

The plot and characters are brilliantly constructed, the whole fully believable to the smallest psychological detail. Massud is a master storyteller and a fastidious psychological stylist. She's also an exquisite writer. Reading this book is like taking a temporary journey inside the mind of the main character, Nora Eldridge. Readers will emerge gasping at the end, fully comprehending the character they've inhabited and the trajectory of her life.

Nora Eldridge is like a lot of middle-aged people. She believes she is living a lie. She thought she'd grow up to be a famous artist, to have a loving husband, and children. But she finds herself at forty trapped in the ordinary life of a spinster third-grade teacher. She sees herself as the invisible "woman upstairs" living a life of "quiet desperation," a woman with occasional unremarkable boyfriends and a few close girlfriends--a woman stuck in the role of being a moral citizen and a dutiful daughter.

The book starts at the end, when Nora is 42 and fully enraged at life. She is so full of anger that she is bound and determined to break out of the confines of her middling existence and finally start living an authentic life. Most of the balance of the book takes us back five years, to 2004, the year Nora meets and falls in love with each member, individually, of the Shahid family.
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366 of 417 people found the following review helpful By Spindrift VINE VOICE on April 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
After reading through the reviews that have been posted before mine for "The Woman Upstairs" I find myself more compelled to tell potential readers of this book who should NOT read it, instead of who should.

The extraordinary Claire Messud's book will absolutely not benefit from a plot summary. It is a book that allows it's protagonist to introduce herself to you in a completely tantalizing way. Nora Eldridge will tell you everything that you need to know in short order. She is a fascinating character drawn with the fine brush and exquisite materials of a very elegant artist. Nora fancies herself an artist, and indeed, reading "The Woman Upstairs" is very much like standing in front of a beautiful, intricate, and extremely interesting painting, in an art museum. You may even want to sit down as you spend a preternatural amount of time staring at this magnificent piece...studying how the fine paint thickens in some areas and the colors resonate. You are imagining peeling back layers and layers until you have unfurled more and more of the work to find all of the hidden meaning that the artist has intended.

If you are someone that must "like" or identify with the characters in the books that you choose...don't choose this one. Nora is one of the most finely textured and unique figures in literature that you will ever meet. You will not understand her, love her, or warmly identify with her. I can't imagine why you would need to. She is a work of fine art, with a very sharp edge.

If you are adverse to learning about different and interesting art mediums...avoid this one.
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