Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ARE YOU LISTENING? THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS: A REVIEW AND AUDIO BOOK GIVEAWAY

WELCOME TO BOOKIN' WITH BINGO'S" 
ARE YOU LISTENING? DAY"
I AM EXCITED TO ANNOUNCE TODAY'S
AUDIO BOOK CHOICE....

 
GIVEAWAY ENDED
THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS 
BY CLAIRE MESSUD 
Read by Cassandra Campbell

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, long ago compromised her dream to be a successful artist, mother and lover. She has instead become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Then into her life arrives the glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahids—her new student Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale, and his parents: Skandar, a dashing Lebanese professor who has come to Boston for a fellowship at Harvard, and Sirena, an effortlessly alluring Italian artist.

When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies, Nora is drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family; she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora’s happiness explodes her boundaries, and she discovers in herself an unprecedented ferocity—one that puts her beliefs and her sense of self at stake.

Told with urgency, intimacy and piercing emotion, this brilliant novel of passion and artistic fulfillment explores the intensity, thrill—and the devastating cost—of embracing an authentic life.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Claire Messud’s most recent novel, 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. 

PRAISE FOR THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS:
“Riveting . . . Messud is adept at evoking complex psychological territory, and here favors a controlled and notably unreliable style of narration. She is interested in the identities that women construct for themselves, and in the maddening chasm that often divides intensity of aspiration from reality of achievement.” —The New Yorker

“[A] powerful psychological thriller . . . As in a fairy tale, Nora becomes spellbound by a family that seems to embody what she is missing. The power of self-deception is one of the key themes. . . . This is not just a novel of real psychological insight. It is also a supremely well-crafted page-turner with a shocker of an ending.” —Julia M. Klein, The Boston Globe

“Thrums with fury . . . Startling: a psychological and intellectual thriller.”
—Los Angeles Times

“Tightly focused and intensely first-person . . . Nora storms onto the page in a fury to tell us the story of a few months that changed her life. . . . The stage is set for a terrible betrayal, and the ending delivers it. The writing in this book is on fire, and the connections it makes—a Chekhov short story, a Larkin poem, Alice in Wonderland—pop like intellectual fireworks from the page.”
—Marion Winik, Newsday

“Exhilarating . . . Messud’s previous novels, extraordinarily intelligent and well-crafted, are characterized by rationed or distant emotion. [But] The Woman Upstairs is utterly different—its language urgent, its conflicts outsize and unmooring, its mood incendiary. This psychologically charged story feels like a liberation. Messud’s prose grabs the reader by the collar . . . Reading Nora’s turbulent testament of belief and betrayal, you feel less like a spectator than a witness. . . . In this ingenious, disquieting novel, Messud has assembled an intricate puzzle of self-belief and self-doubt, showing the peril of seeking your own image in someone else’s distorted mirror—or even, sometimes, in your own.” —Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review

“From its opening lines, Messud’s new novel grips like a choke hold. . . .The most unlikely hero, Nora, self-identifies with scornful wit and rage as the titular Woman Upstairs. But oh how Messud, whose last novel was the sharp and brilliant The Emperor’s Children, gives her woman room to roar. . . . Sirena awakens in her an unapologetic lust of life that Nora was previously too good or too scared to claim. The narrative burns toward an inevitable betrayal of startling proportions, one that instead of diminishing Nora lights her ablaze. This is a book sweating with rage, and an exhilarating one. Read it in an openmouthed gulp. After the final powerful paragraphs, in which Nora howls in galvanized fury, throw it down and have a drink, or a dreamless nap. Don’t be surprised if you then pick it back up and start all over again. A”
—Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly 

MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW:
Claire Messud, author of the best-selling THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN, newest novel is THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS. I enjoyed THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN but do remember it wasn’t that easy of a read. Still, I was eager after all this time to listen to Messud’s newest work, on audio book, THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS. She tells the story of Nora Eldridge who works as a third grade teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In flashbacks, Messud describes Nora’s youth as one where she wanted to be an artist but her mother, who I think had such a strong hold on Nora, convinces her to leave her dream behind. Being an artist is too risky a profession. Nora was also advised to always earn her own money so she didn’t have to depend on any man. And so, Nora gives it all up and after caring for her mother who was dying of ALS, she goes on to teach. Now a 37-year-old third-grade teacher, Nora is a devoted daughter who regularly visits her father and elderly aunt.

When she isn’t doing that or teaching, Nora still finds some time for her art. While caring for her mother, Nora had to do smaller art projects due to lack of space and began to make dioramas. She still does but she never shows them to anyone because she worries about what people will think of her. Here is where we easily start to see Nora’s fear of how she might be perceived by others. I think she totally felt she was unworthy of having anything good happen to her. So her repetitive daily life goes on until one day, an exquisite eight-year-old boy, Reza Shahid, is assigned to Nora’s class.

From this moment, Nora Eldridge’s life is never the same again. Reza and his parents are intoxicating to Nora. She comes to know the family better following an incident when a bully attacks Reza on the playground. Reza's father, Skandar, has moved the family to Boston while he is teaching a course on ethics for a year at Harvard. Sirena is Reza’s mother, and to Nora she is exotic and not just because she is a beautiful Italian artist. Sirena is unhappy to have left their home in Paris and put a hold on her art. However, she soon decides to begin her art again and when she finds out about Nora’s art background, draws her in and offers to share her studio with Nora.

At this point in the story, the basic narrative is set and the story began, for me, to take on rather bizarre, long passages, and it was hard to keep my attention. Nora grows closer to each member of the family in different ways. Her desire to gain approval from Sirena for her art is palpable, as is the attention she seeks from Skandar who takes an unusual interest in Nora’s artwork. This interest creates more confidence of a sort in Nora as she feels what she first takes as his approval. I found that this was odd and just didn’t seem to sit well with me. I wondered if Nora’s perception for what was really going on was real or not? Could the Shahids really have these special feelings for her or was it just her wishful thinking? In taking so long to get on to more of the story, I almost gave up on this one but was too curious to quit.

As the story goes on, readers I think will also question the Shahids’ motivation. By the time Nora finds out what is really going on, things have gone too far and her whole personality has changed, at least in the reader’s perception. She feels very betrayed at the end and it comes down so hard on her that her reaction is unimaginable! While the story drew toward the climax, it was exciting but just so hard for me to enjoy because I had to work so hard to get there. Claire Messud does write beautifully and certainly develops her characters. I think perhaps this was just not a book for me while so many others are praising it. I hope you will listen or read it, and make up your own mind on how your feel about it as I believe I am in the minority here.
   
GIVEAWAY
THANKS TO RICHARD AND THE GOOD PEOPLE
AT RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO BOOKS, I HAVE ONE
COPY OF THIS CLAIRE MESSUD AUDIO BOOK 
  THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, TO GIVE AWAY 
  TO ONE OF MY LUCKY FOLLOWERS 
  
--U.S. RESIDENTS ONLY
--NO P. O. BOXES, PLEASE
--INCLUDE EMAIL ADDRESS IN COMMENT
--ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SEPARATE IN
 

ORDER TO COUNT AS MORE THAN ONE ENTRY

 
HOW TO ENTER:
+1 ENTRY: COMMENT ON SOMETHING YOU FOUND INTERESTING ABOUT THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS THAT WOULD MAKE YOU WANT TO WIN THIS AUDIO BOOK

+1 MORE ENTRY: BLOG OR TWEET ABOUT THIS GIVEAWAY AND LEAVE A LINK I CAN FOLLOW IN THE ENTRY 

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON ONE OTHER CURRENT GIVEAWAY YOU HAVE ENTERED ON MY BLOG. IF YOU ENTERED MORE THAN ONE, YOU CAN COMMENT ON EACH ON SEPARATELY AND GAIN MORE ENTRIES THAT WAY

+1 MORE ENTRY: COMMENT ON ONE WAY YOU FOLLOW MY BLOG. IF YOU FOLLOW MORE THAN ONE WAY, YOU CAN COMMENT SEPARATELY AND EACH WILL COUNT AS AN ENTRY
 
GIVEAWAY ENDS AT
 6 PM, EST, JUNE 4

 
 GOOD LUCK!

93 comments:

debbie said...

Thank you for your honest review. Not everyone enjoys every single book. I do like how well the characters seem to be written. I would like to read the book.
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holdenj said...

I haven't ever read anything by this author. She sounds like she's talented, and I appreciate the chance to give it a try.
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traveler said...

Your review interested me very much. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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Her previous novel was a book of the year. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Tina said...

I'm anxious to read this one - I'm always curious to see what my reaction is to mixed reviews.

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Rosita said...

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I'm interested because it sounds like a literary page-turner, there are so few of those!

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Sue Farrell said...

This book intrigues me---what is the betrayal that occurs.
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A book that sounds interesting and unique.elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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Victoria Zumbrum said...

I would love to find out what happens. This book sounds really good. Thanks for the giveaway. I am a follower and email subscriber. Tore923@aol.com

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