The Woman Upstairs

Editorial reviews

The Woman Upstairs

The Woman Upstairs shows human nature in its full messiness and inconsistency.

This was my first time reading Claire Messud, but it definitely won’t be the last. She clearly knows how to develop a character in such an intricate way that the character’s story, their flaws and strengths become personal to the reader.

Addictive, memorable, intense ... Gosh. I guess you could say I liked it.

The interplay between reality and imagination in this textual hall of mirrors makes for a deft study of character underpinned by a gripping narrative.

Instead of taking us further into her mind, Nora's obsessive, bland ponderings begin to bore, and while this novel is structured like a page-turner, the reader tires of being told something is happening when nothing happens. A certain paralysis informs the book.

Claire Messud should achieve literary giant status before too long. To paraphrase Nora, just watch her.

The Woman Upstairs is a thoughtful, quiet novel about the need for fulfillment and the search for reasons to keep from climbing onto the roof.

Messud, the least myopic of artists, has written a tale whose uneasy energy derives from the imploded diffidence of its protagonist, a woman whose fault lies not in the absence of ruth, but in her failure to fully realize herself.

The dense, self-reflexive writing and the willfully commercial plot combine here to create what is, in the end, an intriguing but ungainly Frankenstein monster of a novel.

The Woman Upstairs brims with energy and ideas.

It forces itself on you, demands your attention, impresses and irritates. There is a genuine sense of unease in these pages, of something solid being overturned by the sheer force of Nora's rage.

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.

Anger provides the heat, but the novel’s real energy comes from its intellectual fuel, its all-consuming analytical drive.

If only the book wasn’t such a slog. At 290 pages, it reads more like 400.