Dimanche & Other Stories by Irène Némirovsky
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Persphone books
Written and set in the years prior to and during WWII, Irène Némirovsky takes us into the lives of a cast of dysfunctional relationships in France. Through this novel, she examines the lives and relationships between lovers, between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives and anyone in between. Through a series of quick snippets into different lives, we see different styles of self-reflection, of selfishness and of stagnant relationships, floundering but not quite sinking. Many of these stories have stayed with, long after I have finished the book. Although this collection has only 10 stories, I feel like each story has more than enough materials, depth and variety of characters to be its own standalone novel.
The collection begins with Dimanche, a story about an unhappy marriage and youthful naiveté as the characters spend their perfect Sunday in Spring, although mother and daughter have different experiences when it comes to love. I love the intergenerational mingling in this story. How the life and choices of the mother are reflected in the daughter who thinks she knows better. So much is left unspoken by everyone in this story. It’s a powerful message about how we view ourselves in the world.
Flesh and Blood is another well-thought out story about how the lives of one family are brought together for their weekly dinner with their somewhat cold and distant mother. When the matriarch comes down with a dangerous flu, her sons and daughter stay nearby to weather the storm, leaning on each other and bonding in a way they never had before. This was one of the more insightful and poignant of the stories, I felt. It touched on so many fears, untruths and traps family members set up for each other. Broken promises, growing apart, broken families, bonding in times of distress but then abandoning those emotions once in the clear. This story really touched at the heart of interpersonal relationships and how we fool ourselves in regards to the people in our lives.
None of the chapters felt rushed or prolonged. It felt like Némirovsky was able to succinctly capture so much of human nature in such a short span of time. Each story had its full components, conflicts, protagonists and antagonists. I really should read short stories more. I love the brevity of it, the diversity of it, the ability to tell the same story through so many different eyes and experiences. Each of these 10 stories is filled with lost souls looking for something to complete their lives. Whether they find it or not remains the mystery.
© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/7/2015