While you are waiting for The Woman Upstairs, pick up The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. The story follows three friends in New York City, crowding 30 and living in a quiet uneasiness following the comfortable excesses of the late 20th century. Marina stays with her wealthy parents and works on a long-awaited book about children's clothes. Julius, a struggling magazine writer, is cheating on his new boyfriend and Danielle, a documentarian, begins an affair with Marina's father, Murray Thwaite. In the 1960s, Murray gained notoriety as a left-wing journalist supporting laborers and civil rights groups but has since grown fat and indolent. He secretively writes his tome How to Live but, rather than sharing his wisdom and experiences with a new generation of writers, he fills the pages with self-righteousness.
Immersed in the details of their lives, I was taken aback when the events of 9/11 exploded on to the page. All of the characters are put in their place as the towers fall, but none use the moment for introspection or self-analysis. Messud has a knack for conveying her characters' self-doubt and anguish, even as they fail to see themselves. The theme of facades is woven throughout the book.
"And Murray, whose greatness lay not in his works or his actions but simply in his capacity to convince others of his greatness...Murray who was emperor in his place of pretense - surely even Murray, above all Murray, would be toppled by this."
But he isn't.