By Claire Messud
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 253 pages
Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs introduces the reader to Nora Eldridge. Nora narrates the story and portrays herself as an angry and disappointed almost-forty-something. She dreamed of being a successful artist and instead finds herself as a never-married, third grade teacher with little excitement in her life. She then gains a new student in her classroom, Reza Shadid and his parents Skandar and Sirena. Nora almost instantly sees Reza as her son and his parents as her family/potential lovers. She believes she is in love with each of them and becomes hungry for what they have: Reza, a beautiful boy, Sirena, an Italian artist and Skandar, a Harvard academic. Nora’s false reality causes her to distance herself from her friends and sick father. She becomes ferocious with a lust for life, and rediscovers the artist within herself. Unfortunately, her dream reality is shattered when the ultimate betrayal happens.
“Life is about deciding what matters. It’s about the fantasy that determines the reality.”
Messud’s book is hypnotic, she writes with emotion and a storyline full of metaphors. This reader could feel the passion and anger of Messud’s characters. Messud’s skillful writing, coupled with a compelling story that hinted of disaster at the end, kept this reviewer reading late into the night.
Reviewed by Seniye Groff