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?