Claire Messud is an American novelist and literature and creative writing professor. She is best known for her critically acclaimed novels such as 'The Emperor's Children' and 'The Woman Upstairs.' Her work often explores themes of culture, identity, and the complexities of human relationships.
This list of books are ONLY the books that have been ranked on the lists that are aggregated on this site. This is not a comprehensive list of all books by this author.
This novel follows the lives of three friends in their thirties living in New York City in the months leading up to and following the September 11 attacks. All children of privilege, they struggle with their careers, love lives, and identities against the backdrop of a changing world. The narrative explores themes of entitlement, disillusionment, and the often complicated nature of adult friendships.
The novel centers on Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who once dreamed of becoming an artist. Now in her late thirties, she feels the bitter sting of unfulfilled dreams and is often referred to as the "woman upstairs" due to her quiet, unobtrusive existence. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she becomes enamored with the Shahid family—Skandar, a Lebanese scholar, Sirena, an Italian artist, and their son, Reza, who becomes one of Nora's students. As Nora becomes increasingly entangled in the Shahid's charismatic and sophisticated world, she is awakened to new emotions and ambitions, but this infatuation leads her down a path of passion, betrayal, and a reexamination of her own identity and desires. The novel is a deep exploration of the themes of art, womanhood, and the complexities of the inner life.