The Life of Irene Nemirovsky by Patrick Lienhardt, Olivier Philipponnat and Euan Cameron

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The Life of Irene Nemirovsky by Patrick Lienhardt, Olivier Philipponnat and Euan Cameron

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Category: Biography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A scholarly life of the writer murdered in Auschwitz. There's a fascinating look at the inspirations for her characters and plots. Cautiously recommended.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099523987

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I know that it's one story amongst many but the transportation of Irene Nemirovsky to Auschwitz in 1942 when she was just thirty nine symbolises the crime of the holocaust for me. Much of her success would come posthumously but what might she have achieved given that she was at the height of her powers when she was murdered? Then add all the other people who died and the crime becomes horrific and unimaginable.

Irene Nemirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 to a wealthy Jewish family. Even as a child she was used to travel and regularly spent time in the South of France, but the family was forced to flee Russia when they were threatened by the revolution. They lived for a time in Finland and Stockholm, eventually settling in France. Nemirovsky's father was something of a rough diamond and her mother selfish and unfaithful, vain and difficult – her mother, particularly would form the basis for several characters in Nemirovsky's books.

When France fell to the Nazis Irene and her family took refuge in a small village in Burgundy, but she was arrested in July 1942 and deported to Auschwitz where she would die a month later. Oliver Philipponat and Patrick Lienhardt had access to diaries, previously unpublished documents and to surviving family members, particularly Nemirovsky's daughter Denise Epstein, which has enabled them to produce the most comprehensive biography that is ever likely to be written. It's fascinating and illuminating, particularly with regard to the inspiration for many of her characters. It's also enlightening to see world events through the life of someone who must have felt that civil disorder and violence was destined to follow them around.

If you have read all of Nemirovsky's work then you will relish the background information – the real people who inspired characters or the events which sparked a story. On the other hand if you've not yet read all that you intend you might be better delaying the reading of this book. I've been saving David Golder as a holiday treat for some time, but I now know so much about the plot that I'm reluctant to start reading!

In places the book is dry and almost scholarly in its approach and writing. There were times when I was tempted to skim over pages. It is though, worth persevering for brilliant as her fiction is, her life was even more dramatic.

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

If you haven't read any of Nemirovsky's work we think that you'll enjoy Fire in the Blood , All Our Worldly Goods, Jezebel and The Dogs and the Wolves .

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Buy The Life of Irene Nemirovsky by Patrick Lienhardt, Olivier Philipponnat and Euan Cameron at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Life of Irene Nemirovsky by Patrick Lienhardt, Olivier Philipponnat and Euan Cameron at Amazon.com.

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