The Woman Upstairs
The Woman Upstairs is a searing novel of huge emotional force, from the bestselling author of The Emperor's Children.I'm halfway through my life, or maybe more, and I'm finally awake to the fact that it's in my hands alone. I've believed in other people, had faith, been patient, waiting for my moment -- enough, already. Who have I been kidding?
Nora Eldridge has always been a good girl: a good daughter, colleague, friend, employee. She teaches at an elementary school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the children and the parents adore her; but her real passion is her art, which she makes alone, unseen. To be an artist is, she is sure, her real destiny.
Then one day Reza Shahid appears in her classroom: eight years old, a perfect, beautiful boy. Reza's parents are on a year-long visit from Paris: Skandar, his father, has a fellowship at Harvard; Sirena, his mother, is a glamorous installation artist apparently on the brink of huge success.
For that magical year, Nora is admitted into their charmed circle, and everything is transformed. Or so she believes. As it turns out, her liberation from the benign shackles of her old life is not quite what it seems, and she is about to suffer a betrayal more monstrous than anything she could have imagined.Gone Girl meets The Bell JarCorrosively funny . . . Fifty years ago, Simone de Beauvoir faulted creative women for their unwillingness to 'dare to irritate, explore, explode.' Two generations later, anger this combustible still feels refreshingTerrifyingly perceptive . . . Nora Eldridge is a kind of Madame Bovary for our time, someone who dreams not of romantic passion but of personal fame, in which the envy of the less fortunate figures importantly. . . . One particular triumph of The Woman Upstairs is that Messud's heroine is so sympathetic, and so eloquent and convincing, that the depth of her illusions is not always apparent. . . . Because Messud has lent Nora her own outstanding gifts as a writer we cannot help believing what she tells us, at least for a whileHeartfelt and profound. . . . an absolute page-turner, from its grab-you-by-the-collar opening to its final rumination on the creative uses of anger. . . . it may well be the first truly feminist (in the best, least didactic sense) novel I have read in ages-the novel, candid about sex and the intricacies of female desire, that Virginia Woolf hoped someone would write, given a room and income of her own. An extraordinary novel, a psychological suspense story of the highest sort that will leave you thinking about its implications for days afterwardExhilarating velocity, fury, and wit . . . an acid bath of a novel. 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"How angry am I?" Nora Eldridge rhetorically asks in her opening sentence. "You don't want to know." . . . An astonishing feat of creative imagination: at once self-lacerating and self-pitying, containing enough truth to induce squirms. Brilliant and terrifyingExquisite and immersive . . . Nora Eldridge has to be one of the richest and most fully human characters to come along in years . . . The prose here never calls undue attention to itself, and The Woman Upstairs dazzles without outwardly trying. It also solidifies Messud's place among our greatest contemporary writersThat rare work of fiction seemingly destined to become a cultural benchmark, a byword evenComedy, pathos, sadness: nothing seems beyond her. Her new book has all this-and more. The Woman Upstairs is not a pretty read, but that is precisely what makes it so hard to put downClaire Messud was born in 1966 and was educated at Yale and at Cambridge. She is the author of three novels including The Emperor's Children, a New York Times bestseller, and two novellas. She lives in Boston with her husband and their two children.Her previous novel, The Emperor's Children, was longlisted for the Man Booker.Virago is delighted to have become Claire Messud's new UK publisher.