Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky

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Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A woman stands in the dock accused of murdering her young lover, but what brought her there? A compelling story about obsession with age and where that can lead.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 200 Date: July 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099520382

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Gladys Eysenach stands in the dock accused of murdering her young lover. She apparently took a gun from her handbag and shot him in the early hours of Christmas Day in her own home. What happened is clear – Gladys makes no attempt to deny it – but why it happened is less obvious, and Gladys doesn't seem inclined to offer much in the way of explanation. But gradually, oh so teasingly, we find out what really happened and why.

Gladys is obsessed by her age. It's not just the rueful glance in the mirror which reminds you – again – that these days you're built for comfort, not for speed. This is full-blown obsession and nothing must stand in the way of her retaining her youth. It dates from when she was twenty and went to a ball in London. She looked and felt beautiful, danced forever and was deliriously happy. It then became her life's work to recreate that moment as many times as she could.

An early marriage left her a wealthy widow whilst she was still young and whilst she loved the daughter of the marriage, Marie-Therese' increasing age was a painful embarrassment to her, but nothing that lies about the child's age couldn't change. And so began the series of events – played out over decades – which would bring Gladys Eysenach to court charged with murder.

The story is beautifully told. Fragments of Gladys' past emerge and add flesh to another part of the sad tale as we hear about her childhood with an absent father and a hated mother, her marriage (which might have saved her, had it lasted) and her relationship with her daughter. There's compassion in the telling but it's done with stark honesty. Gladys might fool the men in her life about how old she is, but she can never fool the reader.

It's a relatively short read and made all the shorter because it's impossible not to continue reading to find out what Gladys will do next in her desperation to take decades off her age. There's not a wasted word - the story seems to have been crafted rather than written – but we lose out on nothing. People come off the page fully formed and places are there in front of you, be it Paris on a winter's evening (where it all began to unravel) or a London ball (where it all started). It's superb stuff.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Anything by Irene Nemirovsky make splendid reading, but if this type of writing appeals to you then you might also enjoy The Complete Novellas by Agnes Owens.

Buy Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky at

Buy Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky at


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