To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to make of this book, whether I loved it or felt it a bit anticlimactic. Even the title of this novel is marinated in bile. This is brave but smart of Messud, and good for us – we need to read books that are at the very close end of the plausibility spectrum from time to time. ("You are very funny, in your apples," he says when he sees her spilling a bag of groceries in the supermarket, and it's a cleverly chosen malapropism by Messud; she is good at gauging precise degrees of charm in her dialogue.) For all its measured, exacting pace, Claire Messud's latest novel is a beautifully sustained howl of rage against life's disappointments In Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs, Nora Eldridge, 42 when the book opens, is being unceremoniously walloped by life's inevitable and brutally rapid passing. You have to find a way to keep going, to keep laughing, even after you realize that none of your dreams will come true. To tell what I know, and how it feels, if I can.". "Watch out," you want to warn her as she immerses herself in the Shahids' quasi-seductive glow. Our angry narrator, moreover, goes on to say that although the plan had been to have the words "Great Artist" on her tombstone, what she would really like now would be: "FUCK YOU ALL". But after the explosive opening the book settles down, and we learn that our narrator is called Nora Marie Eldridge, that she is 42 and that until recently she taught third-grade children (eight-year-olds) at a school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Woman Upstairs. And Nora gets to know his mother Sirena and father Skander, a Christian Lebanese academic who has been invited to teach at Harvard. Review: The Woman Upstairs, By Claire Messud, You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully, Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable, Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties, We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification. Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate. Review: The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud. Create a commenting name to join the debate, There are no Independent Premium comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts, There are no comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud – review Claire Messud's latest narrator is angry, female and refreshingly believable Claire Messud: 'Female anger has never been so readable.' Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian. In comparison, this seemed somewhat immature. When a new boy, eight-year-old Reza Shahid, joins Nora's classroom, she's enamoured by what she perceives to be his physical, emotional and intellectual perfection. Also that she is quiet, dependable and more or less invisible, as childless unmarried women of that age are expected to be. She's uncomfortable in her own skin, though she appears otherwise to others. The question now is how to work it, how to use that invisibility, to make it burn." And this in itself, you assume for a good many of the novel's 300 pages, is the source of her rage: a reaction to the way society treats women like her. "How angry am I?" "Be careful!" It's looking like she'll never be a famous artist and will never completely achieve her dreams, a reality she's been trying to come to terms with for the past five years: "[T]he age of thirty-seven … is a time of reckoning, the time at which you have to acknowledge once and for all that your life has a shape and a horizon, and that you'll probably never be president, or a millionaire, and that if you're a childless woman, you will quite possibly remain that way." I think about four things happen in it, maybe five. From the New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor's Children, a brilliant new novel: the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed, and betrayed by passion and desire for a world beyond her own. The most insightful comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated articles. Here's hoping, for Nora Eldridge's sake, that it's a galvanising one as well. Tue 14 Jan 2014 06.41 EST First published on Tue 14 Jan 2014 06.41 EST. In Nora, Messud has produced a clear-eyed, unsentimental and compelling portrait of an ordinary person quietly revealing their faults, uncertainties and insecurities, a woman with a big fat question mark in her life, who is ripe for an answer. The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud – review Anger is the subject of this very grown-up novel Nicholas Lezard. She's chafing against the hand that life dealt her as well as grappling with the looming apprehension that her failures are her own, that she simply didn't channel her talent, her dreams, her ambitions into full fruition. Book Review: 'The Woman Upstairs' By Claire Messud Claire Messud's new novel, The Woman Upstairs, delves into the inner life of the quiet, friendly — and secretly furious — woman upstairs… This lady's got one terrifically resilient wall of defence. When we finally get to see why Nora was so angry at the beginning, it's an extraordinary betrayal that is also a clever surprise. ", What crystalises over the taut, tension-lined narrative is a story that holds a deep betrayal at its heart and one that's shaped Nora since her tipping-point-age of 37. Are you sure you want to delete this comment? Anger is the subject of this very grown-up novel, Brave but smart … Claire Messud. Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. Start your Independent Premium subscription today. asks the narrator at the beginning of this novel. "You don't want to know. She is an artist – you could, cruelly, say "a real one", as opposed to the pretend, or abandoned one Nora is – and she and Nora set up a studio together. What, you wonder, could possibly topple it? The Woman Upstairs is an occasion to reawaken a literary hot button that I love: the unlikeable character.


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