Other books byClaire Messud
The Woman Upstairs
From the New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor’s Children, a masterly new novel: the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed and betrayed by a desire for a world beyond her own. 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.
When the World Was Steady
In this highly acclaimed novel by the author of The Emperor’s Children, life isn’t all Emmy and Virginia Simpson might have hoped. When Emmy’s marriage to an Australian man ends, she flees her home in Sydney for the tropical paradise of Bali to “find herself”—only to become embroiled with an eclectic crew of international misfits and smugglers. Her sister Virginia, meanwhile, has never wandered far outside of London. Prim and pious, Virginia is struggling to find meaning in her life and her aging mother thinks a visit to the Isle of Skye is just what she needs. On these two islands halfway around the world, the middle-aged sisters confront their lives and their destinies with unexpected consequences.
"A Simple Tale" is the moving account of Maria Poniatowski, an aging Ukrainian woman who was taken by the Germans for slave labor and eventually relocated to Canada as a displaced person. She struggles to provide her son Radek with every opportunity, but his eventual success increases the gulf between him and his mother. What of the past is she to preserve, and how to avoid letting the weight of that past burden the present? Maria's story is about the moments of connection and isolation that are common to us all. "The Hunters," the second novella, is narrated by an American academic spending a summer in London who grows obsessed by the neighbors downstairs. Ridley Wandor, a plump and insipid caretaker of the elderly, lives with her ever-unseen mother and a horde of pet rabbits she calls "the hunters." While the narrator researches a book about death, all of Ridley Wandor's patients are dying. Loneliness breeds an active imagination. Is having such an imagination always destructive? Or can it be strong enough to create a new reality? Far-flung settings and universal themes give a sweeping appeal to Claire Messud's work.
The Last Life
Narrated by a fifteen-year-old girl with a ruthless regard for truth, The Last Life is a beautifully told novel of lies and ghosts, love and honor. Set in colonial Algeria, and in the south of France and New England, it is the tale of the LaBasse family, whose quiet integrity is shattered by the shots from a grandfather's rifle. As their world suddenly begins to crumble, long-hidden shame emerges: a son abandoned by the family before he was even born, a mother whose identity is not what she has claimed, a father whose act of defiance brings Hotel Bellevue-the family business-to its knees. Messud skillfully and inexorably describes how the stories we tell ourselves, and the lies to which we cling, can turn on us in a moment. It is a work of stunning power from a writer to watch.