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Once again Vintage are giving us a treat with another great tale form the late Irene Nemirovsky. Nemirovsky had the great talent of getting under the skin of her main characters, and to a certain extent ours.

To be honest I couldn't put this book down, it immediately captivated and held me from the very beginning and is sure to be a success. Our story opens with Gladys Eysenach on trial for the murder of her younger lover. With the trial concluded we are then taken on a trip back into different periods of time, where we learn more about Gladys, what she was like and how vain she is. With the current plethora of adverts offering men as well as women the chance to stay looking 'young' this book is very modern and will bound to be on many a reading groups list. Gladys herself just wants to be loved as an attractive woman and can't abide aging and losing her looks, but in her case she is prepared to go to extreme measures to keep hidden her real age. As the story progresses you go from feeling sorry for Gladys, to eventually reviling her, as more and more becomes apparent about her vanity and selfishness, and why she really committed murder. Sandra Smith who translated this is also provides a short introduction where you can see that this book in some ways mirrors Irene Nemirovsky's relationship with her own mother.

All in all this is a fantastic book that you will be bound to come back to time and time again.
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on 1 October 2010
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 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.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 31 March 2012
Irene Nemirovsky's novel 'Jezebel' is the tale of Gladys Eysenach, a beautiful, but ageing woman, whose beauty is fading and with it, her power over men. Gladys, who is obsessed with trying to re-create her lost youth, is on trial for the murder of a man - a much younger man, who is purported to be her lover. As the murder trial progresses and as witnesses take the stand, the reader begins to learn about Gladys' rather chequered past, but it is once the trial is over and the verdict is given that we discover the surprising events that led to the killing of the young man.

This is an engrossing story, but is quite a short one, so I shall be careful not to reveal too much and spoil the story for prospective readers. However, I will say that the beautiful Gladys is not a character that naturally evokes the reader's admiration or sympathy for she is totally self-obsessed: "Everyone who looked at her confirmed her beauty, her power. So many men had been in love with her. 'That was all I cared about' she thought. 'All I ever really loved was their desire, their submission, their madness, my power and my pleasure..." and with lines such as these, it seems clear that Nemirovsky did not intend the reader to be filled with sympathy for her character.

It's believed that Nemirovsky used the difficult relationship between herself and her own mother as a basis for this story (as she also did in the excellent recently republished The Wine of Solitude) and, if this is true, it partly explains why her writing is so convincing. However, horrified as the reader may be with most of Gladys' actions, one can't help feeling a rather reluctant sympathy for her on occasion and, although this book has a wonderful old-fashioned feel to it, there are parallels to contemporary life with today's culture of the celebration of youth, fame and beauty. This is an absorbing and fascinating story and one that is easy to enjoyably devour in one or two sittings; I have All Our Worldly Goods and The Dogs and the Wolves on my to be read pile, and I am very much looking forward to reading and reviewing them in the near future.

4 Stars.
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on 20 March 2016
Suite Francais is so lovely that it is hard to believe the same person wrote this. it repeats & repeats & repeats the same shallow lament over & over & over again & calls it a novel. it might have made a good short story. it is essentially a murder mystery, or should be, but the author was just not up to the telling of the tale. or perhaps she was just too young really to understand the emotions involved with fear of getting old, so could not make the main character anything remotely resembling a real person. this is just a cast of paper-dolls flapping in the breeze.
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on 23 September 2010
Another great short novel by Nemirovsky...and I have only 2 left to read now...sigh..
The story focusses on a woman - the Jezebel of the title - and her life. It opens with her trial for murder and then goes back to the beginning and her life is revealed in all its shockingness. Jezebel's focus in life is herself and holding onto her beauty and her incredible and almost unbelievable selfishness in that goal.
I think this book still has relevance today given the pressures - if you are a woman - to remain 'young and atractive'....
It's very good - like a female equivalent of David Golder in its intensity and darkness.
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on 16 January 2012
This French novel from the mid-1930s [newly translated in 2010] is one of the author's attempts to deal in writing with her horrible mother. No reference to Jewish or Russian roots in this work. Instead, it describes a Girl with the Red Shoes, feasting, dancing until daybreak, go to wherever the rich congregate. Gladys is an immensely rich heiress with a daughter and is very, very beautiful. Her sole purpose in life is to be found attractive, outshine other women, be seductive and be seduced.
From early on she is consumed by a deep fear of aging and how, then, the only way she enjoys to live will come to a halt. As the years and decades progress, her physique hardly changes, but her anxiety grows exponentially. The things she does to prolong the perception of her youth is the gist of the novel. It is all about manipulating and destroying evidence of her real age. It begins in the 1910s and ends in 1935. The book starts with her trial that year, accused of shooting her 20-year old lover to death...
Very curious book to read in this day and age about the French leisure class and their maîtresses, gigolos, drinking, gambling and endless balls and parties. Male readers will hate it. But IN, author of at least 16 books, is a crafty plotter, imploring readers to jerk tears on Gladys' behalf, which none will do, of course.
Faithful readers of IN know the real fate and drama of the fictionalized daughter and mother. The Girl with the Red Shoes died in her nineties or at the age of 102 (sources disagree)in Nice, France. Her book author-daughter at 39 in Auschwitz. More terrible facts are for readers to uncover.
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on 17 October 2010
I enjoyed this very much, the writing style is lovely, although I read the English translation and not the original French. It did however start to get repetitive in certain parts towards the end, but I would recommend it. It takes place in an age which no longer exists but it is also an evaluation on the relationship between mothers and daughters.
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on 1 February 2011
I was hoping for something great as the premise was promising but for me this book never got off the ground. I don't think it was because I disliked the main character, or because none of the secondary characters were developed it was more just a need for excitement. She tried to creat pace and a twist - which could be seen coming a mile off - and she never succeeded.
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on 10 August 2013
This is a marvellous book by a forgotten and much under rated author. Her talent for such a young woman is prodigious.
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on 3 April 2015
Wery good read get me hooked from first page and make me to reflect on my own life.
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