The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

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I am very excited to write that I read this book thanks to the Winter Reading Challenge! One of the participants, Nadia, read this novel and wrote a great review. It is always easy to say that you will read something after learning of it, but to actually do it– oh it feels so good!

I was happy to find this at the public library near me (Schlow in State College, PA).  The copy I read was a large print version, which was a new experience for me, and I greatly enjoyed it.  I think I will start reading more books in large print if they are available. Somehow having less words per page made me a more attentive reader.

As for the novel, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Briefly, the story is about a woman, Nora Eldridge, who is a 37 year old single woman (never married, no kids). She is a 3rd grade teacher and also an artist, though she feels lackluster about her art because she is not doing it professionally. She has a new student, Reza, and is very drawn to him.  She becomes friends with his parents– his mother, Sirena, is an artist and her and Nora rent a studio together.  Reza’s father, Skandar, is a visiting professor at Harvard, which brings them from Paris to Cambridge, Mass.

While reading this novel, I felt reminded of similar situations in my own life, which made me feel connected to Nora.  Nora is a sensitive creature who is living in a world where she is judged for not having a husband or kids and yet is so intensely attracted to this family she questions a lot of her own self.  The story brings out a lot of her self-exploration in her art, her life, her person.  There is loss, which for me was the biggest part of the story. The inevitable erosion of relationships that so often leaves us wondering what really happened.

I loved the writing style, the easy to read prose and the story. All in all, this was a big win. Thanks, Nadia! 🙂

Overall rating: 4.5/5

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