Tag Archives: irene nemirovsky

The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky

The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky

Chatto and Windus, 1935

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This book tells the story of the Karol family. Boris, Bella and their daughter Helene move from Kiev to St. Petersburg to Finland to Paris as the events of World War I and the Russian Revolution unfold and force the family to flee their homes.  This book is a wonderful study of filial relationships, financial hardships and just how deep levels of denial can seep throughout a family.

Some have said that this book is a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s life. If its that’s the case, it breaks my heart. The young girl in the story is ever searching for love and acceptance from her parents. Her father is distant, gambling and turn a blind eye to her mother’s affairs. Her mother, is cruel, unloving and always out of arm’s reach. The only person that makes young Helene’s life bearable is her governess, Mademoiselle Rose.

The character of Bella was the most interesting. There are a number of commonalities between Bella and Anna Karenina. The unfaithfulness, the self-indulgence, the lack of maternal instincts, the narcissism and the negative consequences of their actions on the family. A character as complex as Bella must have been something of a novelty at the time this novel was written. Bella defies the stereotypes of happy housewife. She lives for pleasure, luxury and contentment. Lonely Helene merely gets in her war. As the novel progresses, we see Helene age, mature and begin to define herself within the world her parents have created. Her character development is given the most attention, as most of the novel is told through her perspective.

This is a very deep and thoughtful account of a very dysfunctional family. The era in which it takes place adds extra layers of complexity to the characters and their struggles. This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. And to think, I picked it up on a whim at the bookstore all because of the Eiffel Tower on the cover. It’s actually quite misleading, as very little of the book takes place in Paris. It’s mostly Russia and Finland. Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful novel.

© 2014 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld or at my Tumblr.

Fire in Blood (Irène Némirovsky) – Review

Fire in the bloodFire in Blood by Irène Némirovsky
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Location: France
Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition
ISBN: 978-0739357767
3 CDs
Format: Audio Book

Set in the indiscreet countryside of France, Nemirovsky weaves a tale of infidelity and the bonds of family. The story is narrated by Silvio, an elderly uncle watching the events unfold as tragedy and betrayal engulfs his niece Collette and surrounding neighbors.

The story is very subtle, and parts of it reminded me strongly of Anna Karenina and her dissatisfaction with her life. The story is very slowly paced, so I’m lucky I had the audio book to keep my attention. I don’t think I would have been so lucky or attentive with the print. The characters are very nuanced and Nemirovsky has a great eye for detailing the simple things in life.

The short novel is about a number of things; age v. youth, solitude v. society, passion v. complacency. As the narrator, Silvio is old and jaded. He wasted his youth and now tries to live below the radar of society, minding his own business. His family, is not so lucky. Younger and with more to learn, they experience the pain of love and betrayal in front of Silvio’s eyes. This often lead to many introspective thoughts by Silivio. Those internal monologues I enjoyed the most. I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters other than Silvio. I found then somewhat vapid.

This is my first introduction to Nemirovsky, but will not be the last. Her short life ended tragically in a concentration camp during World World II. As a result, her only other novel Suite Francaise was found in two parts and was carefully pieced together and highly edited. I can only image what great works she would have continued to pen had she lived.

Book 26 of 2011

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