Le Vin de Solitude

10 Jan

cover Le vin de Solitude

  • 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/ DedicationLivre 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.



Posted by on January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


9 responses to “Le Vin de Solitude

  1. Col

    January 10, 2014 at 22:57

    Enjoyed review. Read Suite Francaise couple of years back and really enjoyed it. This sounds good especially as “better than Austen” is praise indeed and also your suggestion that this would be an easier place to try reading a novel in French again. I will give that a go – though I will buy myself a new French Dictionary first!

    • N@ncy

      January 11, 2014 at 09:58

      Thanks for your comments….I did put myself out on a limb when I confessed that Némirovsky is better than Austen. I just went with my feelings. As Amy from Book Musings says in her comment, Irène’s writing is sometimes heartbreaking and I never felt that with Jane Austen.

  2. Amy

    January 11, 2014 at 01:03

    Hey, thanks for the shout-out, Nancy! I’m sooooooo glad you enjoyed this. You will find that she revisits a few themes again and again–cold selfish mothers; beloved but remote fathers, Jewish immigrants in France. But she does it so heartbreakingly well. And she does also tell some stories from a mother’s pov, quite sympathetically, like All Our Worldly Goods.

    (Btw, I don’t have the book in front of me now, but I think the “wine of solitude” is mentioned somewhere near the end, when Helene is reflecting on being on her own?)

    Looking forward to seeing more reviews of Irene from you. 🙂

    • N@ncy

      January 11, 2014 at 10:15

      Némirovsky has a depth in her writing that stopped me in my tracks. The mother-daughter relationship is acerbic. I loved the small details ..”lorsque Bella pressait sa fille contre son sein, les ongles griffaient presque toujours le visage… ( when her mother embraces her, her fingernails always scratch her face). Have you read Le Bal ?

      • Amy

        January 14, 2014 at 21:27

        I have not read LeBal. I find most of my Nemirovsky in my local Half-Price Books, and it hasn’t appeared there yet.

    • N@ncy

      January 12, 2014 at 16:02

      I found it! “Je suis seule, mais ma solitude est âpre et enivrante.” ( I’m alone, but my solitude is bitter and intoxicating) pg 279

  3. heavenali

    January 11, 2014 at 22:40

    I read my first Nemirovsky recently and it made me want to read everything by her.

    • N@ncy

      January 11, 2014 at 23:21

      Curious to know ,,,how did you ‘ find’ Némirovsky? As I said in the blogpost I discovered her thanks to Amy at Book musings. My next book will be…Le Bal!

      • heavenali

        January 12, 2014 at 00:04

        I’m a big fan of Persephone books and one of her collections is on their list.


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