What kind of question is that?

For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with  Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “Is this a potential friend for me?” but “Is this character alive?”

– Claire Messud


The Woman Upstairs

I hovered between two stars and three stars for a minute before I rated this book. To me, three stars is a decent book; two means I didn’t really like it.

I did like this one, in a lot of ways. I feel like the story itself is decent – haven’t we all had those relationships that are so all-encompassing that we can’t stop thinking about them? And especially unreciprocated ones. I can so relate to that, but I feel like it was executed somewhat poorly.

I like that the main character was a teacher. I don’t come across many books with teachers as the focus, especially ones where the relationship began at school. I really liked the fact that Nora had such deep feelings for Sirena and Skandar, even though she was never quite sure how much the two of them reciprocated her feelings.

However, I didn’t like the pages and pages detailing Nora’s feelings in such a melodramatic way. I get it – feelings and emotions ARE dramatic – but this felt overdone. I don’t know if it’s just because of the narrator, or if this is the author’s normal style. Either way, it just wasn’t for me.

I was also a little disappointed in the fact that the big problem that the book led up to – Sirena using a video of Nora as part of her art, without warning her – was only revealed at the very end. We spent the entire book hearing about Nora being angry only to have to wait until the last couple of chapters to learn why. I’d have preferred to find out earlier, then read more on Nora’s life afterwards.

Solid story, good writing, just not one of my favorites.