Friday, July 12, 2013

The Woman Upstairs

The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud, is just not a good novel. I read it based on a very good review in either The New York Times or The New Yorker, and I was disappointed.

It's a fast read, with an angry, obsessive narrator. A schoolteacher with thwarted ambitions who falls in love with a sophisticated and artistic family. Her internal state revolves around the mother, a successful artist with whom she shares a studio, the father, a Lebanese intellectual, and the beautiful, mild son who is her student.

There is very little plot there, just the wasted energy of this uninteresting woman -- not uninteresting because she is a schoolteacher, but uninteresting because she lacks dimension. Her back story about her parents is helpful in fleshing her out, but basically there isn't a lot there. The ultimate, and somewhat shocking betrayal at the end fell flat.

One thought, this might have worked better as a short story. There wasn't enough plot or tension to sustain an entire novel.

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