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An Intense Affair,
This review is from: The Misunderstanding (Hardcover)
'The Misunderstanding' is the latest of Irene Nemirovsky's work to be skilfully and sensitively translated by Sandra Smith, but this novel is actually Nemirovsky's first book, which was written when she was aged just twenty one, and first published two years later in 1926.
One of the two central characters in this story is Yves Harteloupe, a young man whose family fortune has been lost, and a man who has been deeply affected by the Great War and by the terrible experiences he endured in the trenches. In the attempt to recapture happier moments from his past, Yves returns to the resort of Hendaye, in the Basque Region, where he remembers spending wonderful family holidays as a child. At Hendaye, Yves meets the beautiful, but bored, Denise Jessaint, a young mother who is married to a rich businessman who is frequently away on business. Yves finds Denise very attractive and tries to spend as much time as he can in her company and, before long, he becomes infatuated with her. Caught up in the intensity of the hot, late summer days and by Yves' infatuation with her, Denise finds herself falling passionately in love; but this is no summer romance and neither Yves nor Denise have any intention of saying goodbye to each other at the end of the holiday.
When Yves and Denise return to a subdued autumnal Paris, they make plans to continue their clandestine affair - but their relationship has its difficulties, especially as Denise cannot seem to understand that the significant difference in their financial positions has the potential to cause an unbridgeable gap between them. When a mutual misunderstanding occurs, and their fledgling relationship shows signs of falling apart, Denise confides in her sophisticated mother and decides to take her advice - but has Denise misunderstood that advice and, if she acts on it, will she live to regret her actions?
This is a beautifully written and lyrical novel with strikingly drawn main characters - but it is a very short one, so I shall say nothing further about the story. However, I will say that this book, like other novels by Nemirovsky, is permeated by war and its after effects and, in her writing, the author clearly demonstrates her awareness of the psychological consequences of war on the individuals involved. Therefore, although Nemirovsky was very young when she wrote this book, and this story does have a youthfully intense and romantic feel, her writing shows a perceptive insight which belies her young years. I was pulled into this story immediately and read it in one enjoyable sitting and, although this short novel may not be quite as accomplished as Nemirovsky's later works, it is an engaging and emotionally rich story and one I shall be keeping on my bookshelves to be re-read and re-enjoyed at a later date.