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A Tale of Obsession and Desperation,
This review is from: Jezebel (Paperback)
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.