Nominated by:

Ottawa Public Library, Canada

Cape Breton Regional Library, Sydney, Canada

Lincoln Library, Springfield, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Alfred A. Knopf, USA

The Woman Upstairs

Claire Messud      

2015 Longlist

Nora Eldridge is a reliable, but unremarkable, friend and neighbor, always on the fringe of other people’s achievements. But the arrival of the Shahid family—dashing Skandar, a Lebanese scholar, glamorous Sirena, an Italian artist, and their son, Reza—draws her into a complex and exciting new world. Nora’s happiness pushes her beyond her boundaries, until Sirena’s careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal. Told with urgency, intimacy, and piercing emotion, this New York Times bestselling novel is the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed, and abandoned by a desire for a world beyond her own.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, was a New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Her first novel, When the World Was Steady, and her book of novellas, The Hunters, were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and her second novel, The Last Life, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Editor’s Choice at The Village Voice. All four books were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Messud has been awarded Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

Librarians’ Comments

Messud’s writing is deeply personal and clever, reflective of contemporary life, and in this case full of self-loathing on a pathological level. Her first person narrator is swept off her feet by a romance with a seemingly exotic family, a mostly one-sided emotion, and a set up for a ghastly come-down. Strong feeling throughout carry the reader’s trust and fascination, even through the characters are difficult to like.

The Woman Upstairs is the story of Nora Edfridge, an ordinary woman, living an ordinary life as a school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When Reza Shahids comes into her class, Nora embraces, figuratively and literally, the entire glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahid family: the professor father, artist mother, and beguiling child. What happens to Nora, emotionally and mentally is at the heart of this riveting novel. Messud is a master of psychological characterization. She gets inside the mind of the character, revealing what they love and value the most as well as their deepest fears and insecurities. In the end, Nora Eldridge turns out to be anything but ordinary.

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