Jezebel – Irène Némirovsky

When on a break between re-reads of The Green Carnation Longlist last week (yes, I have started all that again so blogging may go a little sporadic) I was looking for a short book as a break. My eyes fell upon a few of the Irène Némirovsky novels and so I thought it was about time I gave her a second chance, you see I tried the renowned ‘Suite Francaise’ a few years ago for a book group and simply didn’t get on with it. So I looked at the three I had indoors (I had actually been wanting to get her short story collection published by Persephone from the library but someone snaffled it first) and thought that ‘Jezebel’ was the one that could most likely get me and Irène Némirovsky to become firm reading companions.

Opening any book to a court scene is enough to have me itching to pop a book down, I don’t tend to get on with courtroom dramas. ‘Jezebel’ by Irène Némirovsky starts in such a very place however rather than draw the whole drama out and devote a chapter to a witness the whole event is done in 40 pages with witnesses and intrigue page upon page. Why are we in court? Well Irène Némirovsky’s protagonist of ‘Jezebel’, the elegant and beautiful Gladys Eysenach, is on trial for the murder of a much younger man.

I’m not going to tell you whether Gladys is guilty or not, despite the fact that you actually find out her plea and indeed her verdict within the first few pages, because it might still take something away from the book. I was slightly baffled that you knew so much so early on, only Irène Némirovsky has great plans for the reader, you much first see where we find Gladys and then you must go on the journey from her childhood and through society, marriages, liaisons and tragedy (the book has quite an intense charge throughout) to get to the event that found her in this courtroom. It is through this that Irène Némirovsky creates a tale about a woman obsessed with the days of her youth and how as time goes by age creeps upon her and for someone like Gladys Eysenach this is the cruellest thing imaginable.

What is sometimes wonderful about going to a book that sounds intriguing and yet you have low expectations of (especially if you didn’t like the first book you read of theirs) is that when you then really enjoy it it’s almost all the more enjoyable. This was the case for me with ‘Jezebel’. I read it in two sittings and the mixture of the murder and how I was sure it couldn’t just be as clear a crime as Irène Némirovsky originally makes it look and the tale of a woman’s rise through beauty and old ages betrayal of that was a fascinating read and one that I would highly recommend. 8/10

I have been wondering if maybe I should try and get a copy of ‘Suite Francaise’ from the library (as I gave my copy to my Gran who thought it was marvellous) and give it a second chance, did anyone else struggle with that book or did everyone but me really love it? Who still hasn’t read it? Maybe I should go with one of the other two titles of Irene’s that I have which are ‘Fire in the Blood’ and ‘The Dogs and the Wolves’ – has anyone read either of those two? Which other Irène Némirovsky novels have any of you read and had great success with?


Filed under Irène Némirovsky, Review, Vintage Books

20 responses to “Jezebel – Irène Némirovsky

  1. I loved Suite Francaise, but I’m sort of a WWII addict. I think what makes the story even more alluring is Irene’s back story, and what she was going through when she wrote the book. I do have her collection of short stories sitting on my shelf and on my TBR Challenge list. Shame on me for not getting to it yet. I have until the end of the year!!!

    • I am funny about WWII books I have to say. I like them and I dont all at once, which sounds silly I know but I think sooooo many people do them. However I must try and re-read Suite Francaise now after having liked this so much.

  2. novelinsights

    As you know, I didn’t like Suite Francaise either, but this one sounds like a good-un. I think I would find the discussion about how she deals with ageing really interesting. And the cover is a bit fabulous too!

    • I feel I want to give Suite Francaise another try at some point. I think will try a few more of her shorter works first though.I think you would really like this one I have to say.

  3. I like suite Francoise but really enjoyed the shorter stories i read this year le balk ,I think her shorter works may be the best thing she did ,all the best stu

  4. Bet

    I absolutely loved Suite Francaise! Like Sandy, I am a WWII addict, but I think it was more than that– the emotions and themes were timeless. I have also read Fire in the Blood and the short story collection (David Golder, The Ball,etc.) and while I enjoyed them, nothing came close to the elation I felt when reading Suite Francaise. You have made me want to go out and get Jezebel immeadiately!

    • Jezebel is great, its something that I will be recommending a lot to people. I think maybe me and Suite Francaise need to find the perfect time for each other, it wasnt all alligned right when I read it the first time.

  5. I bought this last week and I’m looking forward to reading it. I couldn’t finish SF either but I did love one of her other books (had Fire in the title, can’t remember the rest).

  6. I have this one waiting on my shelf Simon but I have been saving it as a special treat as I am a huge Nemirovsky fan and I adore everything of hers that I have read – including Suite Francaise. Your review has just made me want to stop denying myself and read it now!!

    • Isnt it funny how we do that with favourite authors. Mind you if they are no longer living it makes sense as you know that you have a limited supply. I do that with Daphne Du Maurier.

  7. I haven’t read Suite Francaise (must be the last person to not at least attempt it) but have been enjoying Nemirovsky’s collection, Dimanche and Other Stories (Persephone) that I have been working my way through slowly.

  8. I’ve only read her Suite Francaise, and I really loved it. I haven’t read her other work though, although Jezebel sounds really good! I would suggest reading others works by her first to see if Jezebel was the fluke you liked, or Suite Francaise a fluke you didn’t like – then decide whether to go back to it or not.

    • Yes I think your spot on Amy. I have actually been sent a second copy (I gave mine away) of Suite Francaise from a very kind reader but will give some of the other shorter ones a whirl first.

  9. Fire in the Blood is simple fabulous! I honestly belive it can’t fail to hook someone in and there’s some wonderful darkness, some great ruminating on the way human beings behave – just brilliant. I also really liked The Ball, which is very short and about a young girl who destroys her mother’s social aspirations out of spite. Good to hear nice things about Jezebel as I want to read everything she’s written.

  10. Pingback: Big Thank You’s « Savidge Reads

  11. I completely loved Suite Francaise but didn’t greatly enjoy David Golder (her first novel, I think). It was so relentlessly negative. Jezebel sounds interesting, might search it out.

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