The Emperor's Childrenis a richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune--about the intersections in the lives of three friends, now on the cusp of their thirties, making their way--and not-- in New York City. In thistour de force, the celebrated author Claire Messud brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.
"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.
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.
The Use of Man starts with an unexpected discovery. World War II is ending. Sredoje Lazukić has been fighting all through it. Now, as one of the victorious Partisans, he has come home to Novi Sad. He visits the house he grew up in. Strangers nervously show him around. He looks up the mother of Milinko, his best friend. Milinko's girlfriend, Vera, was the daughter of a Jew, a bookish businessman. Her house stands empty and open. Venturing in, Sredoje is surprised to find the diary of the German tutor that Milinko, Vera, and he all shared, Fräulein, who died on the operating table just before the war. Here, however, in a cheap notebook in Vera's old room, is a record of Fräulein's lonely days, with the sentimental caption Poésie. . . .The diary survived. Sredoje survived. Vera and Milinko have survived too. But what survives? A few years back Sredoje, Vera, and Milinko were teenagers, struggling to make sense of life. Life, they now know, can be more bitter than death. A work of stark poetry and illimitable sadness, The Use of Man is one of the great books of the 20th century.
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.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the "woman upstairs," a reliable friend and tidy neighbour always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her classroom walks a new pupil, Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents--dashing Skandar, a half-Muslim Professor of Ethical History born in Beirut, and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist--have come to America for Skandar to teach at Harvard.But one afternoon, Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who punch, push and call him a "terrorist," and Nora is quickly drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family. Soon she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora's happiness explodes her boundaries--until Sirena's own ambition leads to a shattering betrayal.Written with intimacy and piercing emotion, this urgently dispatched story of obsession and artistic fulfillment explores the thrill--and the devastating cost--of giving in to one's passions. The Woman Upstairs is a masterly story of America today, of being a woman and of the exhilarations of love.
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