Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fire in the Blood - Irene Nemirovsky

Summary: Here is a missing piece of the remarkable posthumous legacy of Irène Némirovsky, author of the internationally acclaimed Suite Française.

Written in 1941, the manuscript of Fire in the Blood was entrusted in pieces to family and a friend when the author was sent to her death at Auschwitz. The novel—only now assembled in its entirety—teems with the intertwined lives of an insular French village in the years before the war, when “peace” was less important as a political state than as a coveted personal condition: the untroubled pinnacle of happiness.

At the center of the tale is Silvio: in his younger years he fled the boredom of the village and made a life of travel and adventure. Now he’s returned, living in a farmer’s hovel in the middle of the woods, and, much to his family’s chagrin, perfectly content with his solitude.

But when he attends the wedding of his favorite young cousin—"she has the thing that, when I was young, I used to value most in women: she has fire"—Silvio begins to be drawn back into the complicated life of this small town. As his narration unfolds, we are given an intimate picture of the loves and infidelities, the scandals, the youthful ardor and regrets of age that tie Silvio to the long-guarded secrets of the past.

Némirovsky wrote with a crystalline understanding of the pretensions and protections of society, and of the varied workings of the human heart, in language as evocative of a vanished era as of the emotional and moral ambiguities in her characters’ lives. All of which was evident in SuiteFrançaiseand abundantly evident again in this powerful, passionate novel.
Summary and book cover photo from

My Review: Suite Francaise has been quite the hype lately so I headed to the library to pick it up. Disappointed in not finding it, I found this novel written by her instead and decided to take it home. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this novel has a very similar background to Suite Francaise (see summary above). And truth be told it is the author's background as much as the story (perhaps even more so) that make this novel fascinating.

However this is an interesting story, one of love and betrayal. It's a timeless tale, told through the eyes of an aging man who sees his second cousin making comparable mistakes in her life. It's a story of reflecting on your own mistakes, and seeing youth make similar ones. It articulates on the consequences of these mistakes (for better and for worse) while proving the power of hindsight. It also speaks of the dramatics involved when we are engulfed in the situation and how inconsequential these things seem later in life, or perhaps not.

Though I can see how the author may have been meaning to expand on the story (some chapters are merely a paragraph), a complete story is told within the 124 pages. I did long for an expanded ending, yet the story comes full circle. And a delightful story it was.

My Rating: A solid 4 stars

If I had to sum it up in one phrase it would be: A story of mystery and romance, of regret and passion, by an author with a fascinating history.


Hannah Furst said...

I recently saw your post about reading Irène Némirovsky's Fire In the Blood. I wanted to pass along some information about an exciting exhibition closing August 30 about Némirovsky's life, work, and legacy. I urge you to see Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. The exhibition includes powerful rare artifacts —including the valise in which the original manuscript for Suite Française was found, as well as many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about this beloved writer! And for those who can’t visit, there is a special website devoted to her story

Although we are in the lazy days of summer, book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Chris Lopez at 646.437.4304 or Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.

Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. If you need any more, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Sweet Em said...

My book club read Suite Francais and I really enjoyed it. It never occurred to me to look into other books of hers, but I think I will.

I found her writing (in Suite Francais) to be very well done, so I don't feel like the books are just popular because of the "dramatic" circumstances. If things had gone different/better then she would like still have received acclaim.


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