** The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Having been unable to finish The Emperor’s Children (a story of self-absorbed twits, I thought uncharitably),  I opened The Woman Upstairs with some trepidation, and I’m glad I did. The woman of the title is a lonely retired school teacher but would-be artist and her tale is told in flashbacks to a dangerous and ultimately disastrous relationship with the family of one of her students, along the way telling us the story of her mother, a frustrated housewife, and revealing the political pettiness of elementary schools and art galleries alike. Dark and well told.

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