- Author Irene Nemirovsky: She was born in Kiev in 1903, the daughter of a successful Jewish banker. In 1918 her family fled the Russian Revolution for France where she became a bestselling novelist. She died in Auschwitz in 1942.
- Genre: “autobiographie déguisée”
- Title: Le Vin de Solitude: Reference pg 279: “Je suis seule, mais ma solitude est âpre et enivrante.” ( I’m alone, but my solitude is bitter and intoxicating)
- Table of Contents: book is divided into 4 parts.
- Book/Printing/Cover/ Dedication: Livre de Poche (2009) with a cover photo by Stéphanie Roujol. The book I have contains no ‘dedication’. The book was originally published in France in spring 1935, just months before France fell to the Nazis. She was prevented from publishing when the Germans occupied France and moved with her husband and two small daughters from Paris to the safety of the small village of Issy-l’Evêque
- Timeline: 1909 – 1922
- Setting: Kiev, St Petersburg, Finland and Paris. These settings correspond to the four parts in the book.
- Trivia: Nemirovsky was denied French citizenship. Irène converted to catholicism in 1939. She wanted to protect her children ( Denise, 10 yrs and Elizabeth 2 yrs) from growing antisemetic persecution.
- Trivia: Irene Nemirovsky, the brilliant writer who became the first (and so far, only) posthumous recipient of the French Prix Renaudot 2004.
Themes: solitude, revenge, determination to free oneself from an oppressing family
- The novel traces Hélène’s life from early childhood in Kiev, to St Petersburg, then after the Russian Revolution to Finland and finally France.
- Hélène loves her father (Boris Karol) but the only person who has any time for her is her governess Mademoiselle Rose
- The book’s focus is firmly on Hélène and the effects her mother’s (Bella) indifference had on her.
Voice of Irène Némirovsky: ( description of her dying father)
- It appeared that the fire was burning within him and he was only a frame that could collapse at the slightest breeze
- (Il semblait que le feu qui brûlait en lui l’avait consumé intérieurement et qu’il ne demeurait plus qu’une fragile charpente qui s’écroulerait au moindre souffle)
Strong Point: language
- Irène Némirovsky’s writing is pure poetry.
- Here’s an example:
- “un petit univers clos et doux comme un coquille et fragile comme elle”.
- ( a small universe enclosed and sweet like a shell and fragile like her)
- This book is VERY easy to read! It would be an excellent choice if you want to rekindle your French reading skills.
This book contains all the ingredients of a wonderful book, touching storyline, complex characters awash with feelings and resentments. I could envisage exactly where she was living in Paris ( rue de la Pompe, M: Victor Hugo pg 214) because I recently stayed in a hotel nearby. This made the reading even more interesting!
Nemirovsky is a very talented writer and I think she’s better than Jane Austen. I was so impressed by her treatment of French as her mother language. It is my dream to be able to read, think and write in French.
I was searching for a way to express how I felt about this book and her writing. I came across this quote and I think it sums it up perfectly: this brilliant writer who “could look inside the human soul and make music with her words…”.
My thanks to….
Amy’s Book musings for leading me to Irène Némirovsky.