Jezebel – Irène Némirovsky

11 Aug

  I am a huge fan of Irène Némirovsky’s work. In fact I like to harp on about her books a lot, as she should get as much recognition as her fine novels deserve.

It was tough for me to pick which of the four Némirovsky books, that I have read to date, I should review first. After much deliberation (two minutes of staring at the books and a few sips of lemon and lime flavoured mineral water) I chose this one. Which is not to say that The Dogs and the Wolves, Fire in the Blood and All Our Worldly Goods are anything but first rate  in themselves, just that this one especially impressed me.

The story starts in a courtroom, in which the sensational case of Gladys Eysenach, who is accused of killing her young lover, is taking place. Without giving anything away the trial reaches a conclusion fairly early on and then we get to the bit of the book that makes it stand out from all her other works, for me.

We get a glimpse in Eysenach’s past, detailing her life from the age of 18 to present. As she is a rich heiress we are introduced to her hectic social life, her affairs and marriages etc.

What impresses about this, the larger section of the book, is the brutal and unflinching honesty about women and how they view their social rivals. For a chap such as myself who finds the opposite sex a confusing conundrum that can only be worked out by understanding a language not yet invented, it made a powerful impression on me and gave me a really insight into how the female mind works.

As well as all that it’s interesting to see how little the obsession with youth has changed since the 1930s and indeed the general self obsession of a certain section of society today.  Mix the social and cultural commentary in with a dollop of dark drama and  nice slice of auto biography and you are in for a treat.

As with all Némirovsky’s work, it’s something to be soaked up and lived through. It’s more of an experience than a mere story well told. And although I was out of my depth with all the feminine stuff going on and all the social etiquette that men just don’t have, or care about, it was still thoroughly enjoyable. I’d tell you more but I’d hate to detract from your enjoyment of this fine book.


Posted by on 11/08/2012 in Fiction


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10 responses to “Jezebel – Irène Némirovsky

  1. Claire 'Word by Word'

    11/08/2012 at 14:17

    Great, another Irène Némirovsky that I haven’t read yet! I read two of her books this year and also a couple of Edith Wharton’s and find them a little similar in terms of the themes they address, but of course a different cultural take, which is interesting in itself. I thought Fire in the Blood and Ethan Frome had much in common.

    Thanks for the review, I look forward to coming across this book.


    • StetotheJ

      12/08/2012 at 14:39

      It’s always nice to know there are other books by such a fine author. I am (unsuccessfully) trying to slow down reading Nemirovsky books because I’d hate to run out. HAving said that her newly translated The Misunderstanding is out in September so there is more cause for celebration. I’ve never read any Edith Wharton but then again that may change soon, now you recommend her.


      • Claire 'Word by Word'

        12/08/2012 at 16:16

        I’m tempted to read the Irène Némirovsky biography as well, not just a great writer but an interesting life and it is thanks to her biographers that some of he previously unpublished work have come to light. I know what you mean, once we’ve read her works, that’s it.

        I think you will enjoy the interesting comparison with Edith Wharton’s work, I only started to read her this year, the alternative anniversary – her 150th anniversary vs Dicken’s 200th and I do recommend ‘Ethan Frome’ and ‘Summer’>/i> to start with, less well known perhaps than her society novels such as Age of Innocence and House of Mirth, but an interesting take on the era within which she was writing.


        • StetotheJ

          13/08/2012 at 00:54

          That biography is on my list too, I’ve read bits and bobs about her life but would be fascinated to know more.

          Fantastic I like excuses to go buy stuff. I’ll let you know what I think when I get around to more glorious historical fiction.


  2. Bumba

    11/08/2012 at 16:00

    Will check her out.


    • StetotheJ

      12/08/2012 at 14:39

      I don’t think you will be disappointed.


      • Bumba

        19/08/2012 at 20:16

        Well, thanks for the tip. I finished Fire in the Blood yesterday. It’s a terrific book, and I’ll be looking for more of her work. All the best.


        • StetotheJ

          21/08/2012 at 19:24

          Fantastic! I’m glad I was of use, you are in for a treat with the other books too. Fantastic authors for fantastic bloggers I say. I may put that on a T-shirt.


  3. Emily

    12/08/2012 at 13:15

    I’ve read Suite Francaise and loved it!


    • StetotheJ

      12/08/2012 at 14:40

      I’m saving Suite Francaise until last, of all her books as I am assured that it is magnificent. Can’t wait to plunge into that!



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