From the New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor's Children, a brilliant new novel: the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed, and betrayed by passion and desire for a world beyond her own.
Nora Eldridge, a thirty-seven-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who long ago abandoned her ambition to be a successful artist, has become the "woman upstairs," a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others' achievements.
Then into her classroom walks Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents--dashing Skandar, a Lebanese scholar and professor at the École Normale Supérleure; and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist--have come to Boston for Skandar to take up a fellowship at Harvard. When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who call him a "terrorist," Nora is drawn 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, until Sirena's careless ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.
Told with urgency, intimacy, and piercing emotion, this story of obsession and artistic fulfillment explores the thrill--and the devastating cost--of giving in to one's passions.
Claire Messud has shown an extraordinary range in all her work and this book is no exception. At times the analogies and metaphors to A Doll's House are too overtly drawn, yet this story is much more than a well-paced, slightly creepy look at one woman's obsession. It helps us step back and take a look at weightier questions: What exactly is art? How much does one have to sacrifice to reach one's life goals? Is such a pursuit even worth it? And what happens when the best you can offer is merely mediocre? (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
New York Times, Liesl Schillinger
[Messud's narrative framework cunningly encases the mise en abyme in which she has placed her characters. In this ingenious, disquieting novel, she 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.
Entertainment Weekly - Karen Valby
This is an exhausting 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. Rated: A
Starred Review. Brilliant and terrifying.
National Post (Canada) - Kate Carraway
This is a virtuosic story of a life, except, it’s not a story of 'having it all', or not: it's a story about how abstractly and accidentally choices get made, and how simultaneously quiet and chaotic all of that wanting and getting and having and losing it all really is.
It was the door slam that reverberated around the world. In 1879, Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, published the famous play A Doll's House. The play, in three acts, revolves around Nora Elman, who balances a delicate secret while trying to save her marriage. Eventually the secret is revealed as is the nastiness of her husband. Sick of the constraints set forth in a traditional marriage a doll's house construct Nora decides she must leave to find, and eventually become, the person she truly is. This door slam that marks her departure might have been literal, but it has been held as metaphor for a woman breaking free from the structure of traditional marriage. Since the play criticizes the social construct of marriage, it was considered quite scandalous when it first premiered. Because it was Nora, a married woman, who shut the door on a stifling life and decided to find...
Home parallels the story told in Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead. It is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith.
It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm - a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its...
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British Parliament asks Amazon to clarify why it pays $9 million in income tax on $23 billion of UK sales.(May 20 2013) Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate...