Sunday, May 26, 2013

Claire Messud's New Novel The Woman Upstairs Is Like....

Claire Messud's new novel The Woman Upstairs is like...

...a Henry James short story because the ending turns everything on its head when the main character realizes the truth.

...Elizabeth Strout's novel Olive Kitteridge because many readers will have trouble 'liking' the main character.

...Angela Carter's short story about Lizzie Borden because we get all the events leading up to the crime, but not the crime itself.  Though I'm not altogether sure there's going to be a crime.

...A Separate Peace by John Knowles because one friend is blessed while the other is jealous of just how blessed the friend in question is.

...Notes on a Scandal because the narrator gets uncomfortably close to a family who doesn't really like her as much as she likes them.

...Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie because it's also about a school teacher who gets into trouble by taking her students to an avant garde artist's studio.

...Patricia Highsmith's Talented Mr. Ripley because it shows how much damage envy can do.

...Fay Weldon's Lives of a She Devil because revenge is the best revenge.


This is the third novel by Claire Messud that I've read, so you can count me as a fan.  The Woman Upstairs is and is not like Ms. Messud's previous novels.  It's darker than the others, more of a thriller though you won't understand why I say that unless you make it to the book's closing chapters.

I will admit, that there were points when I thought about giving up, but I'm glad I kept reading to the end.  He's my thoughts while reading the book's ending....

That's not what I thought would happen, but I can see how true that is.  It's kind of a nice way to close the story, too. Now the narrator can finally get on with her life.  But why was she so angry in the book's opening if this is how it all ends?

Oh, no she didn't.

Oh, no!

Wow!

I'll be thinking about The Woman Upstairs for some time to come.  It's that kind of book.

14 comments:

martine said...

What an interesting way to review a book, you have really piqued my interest:-)

JoAnn said...

Ditching the library hold list and heading to the bookstore...

Sandy Nawrot said...

I like this review! You've got me re-interested...

Amy Rea said...

Sold. You've made it sound like my cuppa.

Amy Rea said...

Also, it appears that Jennifer Weiner does not approve of Claire Messud: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/05/likable_and_unlikable_characters_in_fiction_claire_messud_and_meg_wolitzer.single.html

James Chester said...

Thanks for the link Amy. Me Weiner' s position is one reason why I left
my book club. And, for the record, I quite liked Nora.

Amy Rea said...

Personally, I'm pretty tired of Jennifer Weiner. Women authors don't have the right to not like other women authors' books? That'll encourage some thoughtful literary discussion, with everyone fawning over everyone else.

James Chester said...

I've been around long enough to remember the fights Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal used to get into. I know it's wrong of me, but I always thought they were kind of fun. And no one ever told them they should all be more supportive of each other.

Eva said...

I love books that surprise me & stay with me! :) I'll have to put this on the TBR.

Vintage Reading said...

I've got this book on order and I'll come back and read your post after I've read it! I liked her novel The Emperor's Children. Very perceptive on 9/11.

Mrs. B. said...

I started reading this but was turned off after the first few chapters because of all the anger. I did wonder if it was an uglier version if Notes of a Scandal which I loved. Now after reading your review which compares it to so many books I enjoyed, I know I have to keep reading....

Ted said...

I'm a fan too and this book is sitting on my TBR pile! You've really whetted my appetite.

bkclubcare said...

OH no, I had already dismissed this book after reading Jenny's (Jenny's Books) review - tho she really liked it and asked some interesting questions. I didn't care for The Emporer's Children so was shying away from this author. But you've piqued a new interest.
Love JoAnn's response here.

James Chester said...

Jenny at Jenny's Books left this comment:

When were you thinking of giving up? What bits didn't interest you? I'm curious because I found the whole book very engaging in spite of its not having a ton of action.

I accidentally deleted it which happens when I'm using my Kindle. The publish button in next to the delete button. What can I say?

Jenny, I couldn't tell you an exact point. I'd say the second quarter of the book was problematic for me. I was interested in the first quarter, but things just sort of kept going on without really building up until sometime past the halfway mark.

By the end I was basically hooked, and the end really shocked me.