Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: The Woman Upstairs

The opening salvo - How angry am I? You don't want to know. Nobody wants to know about that.

Nora Eldridge is an elementary teacher who wanted to be an artist. Somehow her life evolved into being the "woman upstairs". She's the nice neighbor, the reliable friend, and always on the fringe of others' achievements. (cover blurb)

Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs is told with urgency, intimacy, and piercing emotion. This novel of passion and artistic fulfillment explores the intensity, thrill - and the devastating cost - of embracing an authentic life.  (cover blurb).

When Nora meets the Shahid family her life turns upside down. They embody everything she wants - artistic success, intellectual conversation, and a foreign glamour. Nora thrives with her newfound friendship. However, the mighty high comes with a huge downfall.

P.4 I've finally come to understand that life itself is a Fun House. All you want is that door marked Exit....I opened doors. I took them. I believed in felt so different - until I suddenly realized I'd been stuck in the Fun House all along. I'd been tricked. The door marked Exit hadn't been an exit at all.

The Woman Upstairs develops slowly and the reader goes from being boring Nora to being energetic engaged Nora. The writing is smooth and Messud kept me interested in her characters. I admit I liked the Fun House analogy and indeed you will stay on the ride, anticipating exits and finally surprised.


  1. You've made the plot sound very interesting. I guess everyone is like Nora--except celebrities. An life could be thought of as a grand illusion.

  2. Would that life could really be a Fun House (or am I being too negative?) Sounds like a good read.