"The very fact that I can tell you without blinking that I could kill them - that above all I could kill her - says all that needs to be said. Oh, don't worry, I won't. I'm harmless. We Women Upstairs are that, too. But I could."
Author Claire Messud is reviving the angry feminist of the 1970s. In her newest novel, The Woman Upstairs, she creates a very angry protagonist: Nora Elridge. Why is Nora so angry? It might be because she is well into middle-age and never married or had children. It might be because she abandoned her dreams of becoming an artist and instead settled for being an elementary school teacher. It might be because the world has marginalized her or because she never managed to leave her small hometown. It might be any of these things. As a narrator, Nora is incredibly unreliable. She lies enough to herself that it makes it difficult for the reader to take her complaints seriously.
We find discover all of this in the first fifty pages of the novel which were quite interesting. Unfortunately,
We continued glassy eyed as Nora befriends a newly-arrived family whose son is placed in Nora's class. Sirena, Skandar and Reza Shahid are everything Nora is not...more fuel for the fire. Nora internally rants and raves (we call it whining) over the unfairness of life while simultaneously - and rather creepily, if you ask us - further inserting herself into the Shahid family.
Pages and pages and pages continue on in this fashion.
We did perk up for the final twenty pages when Messud inserts an evil little twist. Did that twist make it worth reading the novel? Not for us. We just didn't have enough of that angry feminist in us. We spent most of our time wishing Nora would shut the hell up and go chase her dreams. Instead, Nora found every excuse in the book for not taking control of her own life and then blamed her failures on the world. Other readers may possess more patience for this than we did.
Title: The Woman Upstairs
Author: Claire Messud
Source: Library Copy
Rating: 3 Stars just because we're feeling generous today. But only on the condition she stops writing such whiny characters.