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The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903-1942 Hardcover – 4 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st Edition edition (4 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701182881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701182885
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'In its respectfulness and its dense poetic asides, beautifully translated by Euan Cameron, this tremendous biography is also very French' --Daily Telegraph, February 2010

You Really Must Read --Sunday Times Culture

`An important contribution to understanding a complex, painful but ultimately triumphant story'. --The Sunday Telegraph

`... a memorable portrait of a strong, determined, sarcastic and humorous woman.' -- Literary Review

'Phillipponnat and Lienhardt scrupulously examine the extent to which Nemirovksy mined her own life and parental relationships for her fiction.' -- Metro

'... lavish in style and high in ambition.'
-- The Times

`The tragic life of the Suite Française'. --The Sunday Times

Book Description

A remarkable, panoramic biography of the author of Suite Française, a moving portrait of a woman and of her extraordinary times, and a sweeping saga of a turbulent period of European history, holding up a mirror to the world of publishing, intellectual thought, society and the darker shadow of prejudice between the wars.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Book Witch on 9 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover
The tragic story of Irene Nemerovsky has fascinated me since I read Suite Francaise. I was working on the biography of Katherine Mansfield at the time and the knowledge that Irene had read and been influenced by Mansfield, and had been reading Katherine Mansfield's diaries when she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, gave me a deeper involvement in her work.

More recently I read her first, published novel, David Golder - an almost vicious portrait of her father and mother - and became more determined to find out about her life. This biography was written by two people and translated into English by a third, so perhaps this has something to do with its difficulty. The amount of information crammed into it is incredible, but also makes the book a battleground where the reader fights for clarity and a thread of chronological stability. It doesn't help that stories and novels not available in English are referred to and quoted without explanation, making it a bewildering maze of literary allusion. The narrative facts of Irene Nemerovsky's life are buried in it (as Katherine Mansfield once said of Frieda Lawrence's good qualities) like a sixpence in a gigantic plum pudding.

Yet, as a study of Irene Nemerovsky's work, it's context and influences, the biography is invaluable. Irene's parents were Russian Jews, her father a banker and financial wheeler-dealer; her mother a vain socialite who was terrified of growing old. `Fanny' as she liked to be called, kept her daughter in children's clothes even after she had grown up - and tried to keep Irene out of sight so that she wouldn't give Fanny's age away to her many lovers. Irene hated her mother and made her the subject of a number of vitriolic novels, including one called Jezebel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Random Reader on 31 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
This biography of the author Irène Némirovsky is remarkable for the thoroughness of its research and its completeness. Némirovsky was born in Russia but after the revolution she fled to Finland then to Sweden and finally settled in France. She was an outstanding author, writing in French, but her Jewish origins led inexorably to her separation from her family and finally deportation by her adopted France to Auschwitz where she died in 1942.

This biography cleverly intertwines her own life with that of the narratives and characters in her books, providing as much a summary of her work as of her life. The result is at times rather dense and detailed, especially if the reader is unfamiliar with the works of Némirovsky. On the other hand it may serve as a wonderful stimulus to delving into one or more of the books mentioned. The harder going is also punctuated by vivid and personal descriptions of her time in Paris and, especially during the war period, in the sleepy rural village of Issy-l'Evêque, providing a contrast to the literary analysis.

Above all, the underlying story of the struggles of an immigrant to ever be fully accepted, irrespective of their achievements, is deeply disturbing and moving. During the war years the majority of those who had feted her slowly drifted to the shadows. Publishing and by consequence earning a living, became difficult both because of formal restrictions on Jewish writers and the less explicit desires of former colleagues to keep their distance. One is left with the question of who was responsible for her deportation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By thebenal on 12 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
A story of how people who leave family, friends and their culture behind in one country, live in another culture. This story happens to take place between the Russian Revolution and WWII. As always with people who live in different countries, there are the issues of adapting, adopting and acceptance. The latter comes terribly unstuck in the late 1930s and during WWII. The true story is a reminder of what people give-up and, in this case, escape when they leave their home country. Its a story also of the impact of childhood and parents on one's adult life and discrimination (before the horrors of WWII). The life story is interwoven with characters from Irene's novels - none of which I have read but the book is so well written, it didn't matter. This story is another reminder of how lucky some of us are because, 'there but for the grace of God walk I'. Beautifully written and the translation is superb - I could hardly put the book down.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Bernardi on 11 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read numerous books by Nemirovsky, I was certainly anticipating this book. Composed by using secondary materials including excerpts from her books, this "biography" is a heavy read and not worth that hard cover price of the book. Frankly, after a number of months of reading a chapter or a portion of a chapter at a time, I am still trying to finish it. Not worthy of an exceptional writer.
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