September Slow Reads: The Wine of Solitude

Patricia Bochi begins our fall season of slow reads with The Wine of Solitude by Irène Némirovsky.

by Patricia Bochi

We begin our fall season of slow reads with The Wine of Solitude by Irène Némirovsky. The novel was originally published in France, in 1935, as Le Vin de solitude, but not until 2011 was it translated into English and is now available in the US.

Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 to a wealthy Jewish family who immigrated to France during the Russian Revolution. She died in Auschwitz in 1942, after a short yet prolific writing career that began in 1929 with the success of her novel David Golder. She is the author of the celebrated novel Suite Française posthumously published for the first time in 2006.

“Introspective, intense, and poignant, The Wine of Solitude is the most autobiographical of all Irène Némirovsky’s novels…  Imbued with melancholy and regret, it explores the troubled relationship between a young girl, her distant, self-absorbed mother, and her mother’s lover, Max.  We follow the family through the Great War and the Russian Revolution, as the young Hélène grows from a dreamy, unhappy child into an angry young woman.  Through hot summers in a fictionalized Kiev (Némirovsky’s own birthplace) and the cruel winters of St. Petersburg, the would-be writer Hélène blossoms, despite her mother’s neglect, into a clear-eyed observer of live around her.  The Wine of Solitude is a powerful tale, telling less of the end of innocence, than of disillusionment; the story of an upbringing that produces a young woman as hard as a diamond, prepared to wreak a shattering revenge on her mother.”  (Vintage International)

“Wonderfully atmospheric . . . . Némirovsky evokes the places of her childhood with a sensuous clarity that shows how much she learned from Tolstoy and Proust. . . . A captivating and searingly honest portrait of the artist as a young woman.”  (The Guardian)

“Stunning… Némirovsky wrote, for all to read at last, some of the greatest, most humane and inclusive fiction that conflict had produced.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Extraordinary. . . . Némirovsky achieve[s] her penetrating insights with Flaubertian objectivity.”  (The Washington Post Book World)

I want this book: Politics & Prose OR

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