Hélène is a troubled young girl. Neglected by her self-absorbed mother and her adored but distant father, she longs for love and for freedom. As first the Great War and then the Russian Revolution rage in the background, she grows from a lonely, unhappy child to an angry young woman intent on destruction. The Wine of Solitude is a powerful tale of an unhappy family in difficult times and a woman prepared to wreak a shattering revenge.
There is something about Némirovsky’s words that I always find excruciatingly sincere. When it comes to families dramas, I like none better than to delve into her works.
The plot is as ever, partially autobiographical of her life and relationship with her mother, whilst managing to highlight some of the ills of society which are more or less the same as today.
Seen through the eyes of Hélène, a victim of circumstance, born into a time of great upheavals. Although mature beyond her years it is so utterly disheartening to see her grow up and follow the same path as her family before her. The inevitability of it all is heartbreaking.
As nations and social factions agitate, H’s view seems markedly detached from everything as she watches her self obsessed family squander the wealth they have built up. which could become worthless at any time due to war and revolution. The desperate and sickening excess is bewildering and such a waste, show,as it is, to the backdrop people starving. The prosperous, living off of their precarious means come across as hateful and shallower than a dried up puddle.
It is into this world that the bitter simmering resentments are born and built up over the years, the book being littered with a variety of broken relationships ,that rely on power over others through monetary and emotional means. It’s a seething mass of hate and self-preservation and once you are drawn into it, it is most likely you will finish the book in a couple of sittings.
The author doesn’t just create flawed characters, but ruined ones, replete with obsessive recriminations, her depictions are always brutally forthright and utterly believable. The incisive portraits of people and the anxieties learnt in childhood that haunt and define them together with the morals learnt and passed on are coalesce into an almost organic form of storytelling.
The true value of life goes far beyond any comparation with the corruption of money, emotional wealth in favour of fleeting wealth as it should be, for all her biting and perceptive works it is still a shame that the author is still not given the attention she deserves, something which review will hopefully redress in some households.
Némirovsky always excels at showing the thin veneer of respectability that families parade, when the underlying reality is usually somewhat different. Her insights are ruthless yet drive on the reader and is one of the main reasons why I love her works. I have read six of her books and each one is an intense rush, over too quickly yet packed full of raw observations that stay in one’s mind.