Sometimes you need some distance to appreciate a classic.
That was certainly the case for John Williams' novel Stoner. When it was originally published in 1965, the only publication to mention the book at all was The New Yorker, in its "Briefly Noted" column. The novel received admiring reviews over the years, but sold just 2,000 copies and was almost immediately forgotten.
Rhode Island is home to beautiful beaches, top-notch universities and a thriving arts scene. Beneath the surface, however, the state faces challenges similar to other parts of the country: shrinking revenues, lost jobs and general economic malaise.
The main character of Claire Messud's novel, The Woman Upstairs, is a good woman. Nora is a 37-year-old elementary school teacher — responsible, kind and reliable. She is also very, very angry.
Her dreams of being an artist have been suppressed; she is seething inside with rage and resentment. But she keeps her anger in until she meets another woman who has everything she does not: a husband, a child and a successful art career. And then everything begins to unravel. As Nora's relationship with the woman and her family deepens, her inner life begins to come out.