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Fire in the Blood [Hardcover]

Irene Nemirovsky
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 25 2007
A new treasure unearthed by Némirovsky’s biographers: another never-before-published novel from the author of the #1 bestselling Suite Française.

This perfect gem of a novel was discovered only recently in separate archive files. A few pages were in the famous suitcase that Irène Némirovsky’s daughters saved, but the balance had been deposited with a very close friend during the war. A morality tale with doubtful morals, a story of murder, love and betrayal in rural France, Fire in the Blood, planned in 1937 and written in 1941, is set in a small village (based on Issy l’Evèque, where Suite Française was written), and brilliantly prefigures the village community in her later masterpiece.

Fire in the Blood is a beautiful chamber piece which starts quietly, lyrically, but then races away with revelations and narrative twists in a story about young women forced into marriages with old men, about mothers and daughters, stepmothers and stepdaughters, youthful passions and the regrets of old age, about peasant communities and the ways they hide their secrets. Némirovsky looks at her characters, both young and old, with the same clear-eyed distance and humanity as she displayed in Suite Française, unpeeling layer after layer. As atmospheric and haunting as Sándor Márai’s Embers, and with the crystalline perfection of Chekhov, Fire in the Blood is another gripping literary find.

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From Publishers Weekly

When she was writing Suite Française in 1940, Némirovsky, who died in Auschwitz in 1942 before turning 40, was also reworking this novel, newly discovered among her papers. Though composed on a smaller canvas, it is another keenly observed study of human nature, and in this case of Burgundy paysans. In a leisurely narrative, middle-aged narrator Silvio recounts three interlocking stories of love and betrayal over two decades. These secret affairs, he says, can be explained only by fire in the blood, the intense passion that can overtake men and women when they are young, highly sexed and vulnerable. Silvio's laconic descriptions of unappeasable desire are seasoned by bitter assessment of the wisdom earned after things cool. Linked through blood and common local history, the characters in this la ronde of betrayal exist in a seemingly idyllic community that is always alert for deviations from the social code. Némirovsky's restraint in unfolding her story contributes to the emotional crescendo at the story's denouement. In its penetrating distillation of manners and mores, this spare and elegant book makes a worthy follow-up to Suite. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


Praise for Suite Française:

Suite Française is miraculous for the power, brilliance and beauty of the writing.”
The Globe and Mail

Suite Française stands as a masterwork, an incisive study of human nature.”
Toronto Star

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spare Prose but so much to say June 12 2009
Now is this woman bitter! I mean the author. A very caustic look at the way relationships play out over the generations in a small provincial town in France. That she can pinpiont complex emotions in so few words is a testament to her skill as an author. Don't let her personal history cloud your reading of this novel. Yes, it does affect her style but on it's own it is a sympathetic if a bit unsparring look at lust/love and what it can do to people over time. You will definitely linger over the words. Fascinating reading.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Silvio frequently muses about youthful passion Sept. 27 2007
By Nikki
I just got done reading Tino Georgiou's masterpiece--The Fates, and picked up a copy of Fire in the Blood. The book opens when Silvio's cousin Hélène and her daughter Colette and the rest of the family come over to introduce Colette's fiancé. Hélène is prompted to tell the story of how she and and her husband got together. In fact, François wasn't her first husband. Though he fell in love with her when she was barely more than a child he waited--and waited even after she was married off to a wealthy older man, returning only when Hélène's first husband died, true--or romantically idealised--love then finally taking its course.

Such a situation isn't that uncommon: even now there's a similar case in the neighbourhood, where mean, rich old Declos married the very young Brigitte. Declos hasn't got long to live, but he still hangs on for the time being. Némirovsky is artful in her presentation, careful in the clues she strews from the first page on. As it will turn out, there are many more secrets and connexions here, but she only very gradually lets on what the various relationships and histories are and were. There's tragedy, of course, and scandal, though in this close-knit community the last thing anyone wants is to involve the authorities or anyone from outside. If you missed Tino Georgiou's novel--The Fates, I'd recommend reading it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
85 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What happened twenty years ago was nothing but a moment of madness..." Oct. 4 2007
By John Sollami - Published on
This novel was written by a 34-year-old woman who was reflecting on her youth, on aging, on the differences between young and old, and on past mistakes and how they are never erased. In this brief and sketchy work, you will find exquisite passages that describe the beautiful French countryside and the comforts of small town life, of love, and of family. The work is narrated by an older man whose passions are burned out but whose memories still haunt him. He sometimes stands off from the lives and dramas surrounding him, but that pose can only hold up for so long. And in fact, almost all the characters in this book want merely peace, love, and solitude, but these qualities prove very hard to attain in the face of life's passions. Although the book at times resembles a soap opera, there are nuggets of wisdom here, and, like all great literature, this work takes on our mortality, our passions, and our human story unfolding in the passing of time. For me this book was well worth reading and savoring Irene Nemirovsky's great literary skills.
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Small Story Oct. 14 2007
By Edward Aycock - Published on
It's great that such there was enough material found amongt Nemirovsky's papers to publish this novella posthumously. This book, while slight, manages to create a sense of place as Silvio describes the village and his relations. Nemirovsky's prose here is more languid than in "Suite Franciase" and this owes to the story being told from a first-person perspective. It's much slower than "Suite Francaise," the book we will all be comparing it to, but this is quite a different story and requires a different telling. I felt that the story meandered for a while as Silvio discusses his relations and past, but toward the end of the story, things come together, revelations are made and I udnertsood where the narrative had been heading.

While this story didn't engage my attention like "Suite Francaise" did,(a book that had me racing home to read it) it still stands as a testament to the late Nemirovsky's talent.
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Flicker of Talent Oct. 1 2007
By David H. Schleicher - Published on
"Fire in the Blood" is the second work to be published posthumously from Irene Nemirovsky, whose masterpiece "Suite Francaise" became a well deserved international sensation in 2006 and 2007. Once again Sandra Smith composes the English translation from the original French and does a splendid job of capturing the spirit of Nemirovsky's prose, though this work lacks some of the cunningly evocative wordplay that had some sections of "Suite Francaise" seem so poetic and fluidly verbose.

Focusing on the romantic follies and unintentionally murderous affairs of the residents of a small village in the French countryside, "Fire in the Blood" is an entertaining slice-of-life style soap opera told uniquely from the point of view of travel-worn aging bachelor who has returned reluctantly to his quiet hometown. Focusing more of the memories of love and youth than on the actual encounters, Nemirovsky avoids the typical trappings of the run-of-the-mill romance novel. There's an often cold, bitter, outsider's sense of detachment to the follies of the characters in the book that give it a sharp observer's edge and turns it into more of anthropological study than a melodrama. Many nuances of rural life and the social mores of the pre-WWII French are delivered spot-on by the Ukrainian born writer. Nemirovsky seduces the reader in the end, as secrets are revealed, and we get a brief flicker of the passion and the fire that had been elusive in the rest of the novel (hidden in gossip and observations after the fact) in the closing pages and haunting final lines. For Nemirovsky, true love dances across the whitewashed walls of our memories like shadows before the flame is snuffed out and we go to sleep for the rest of our lives in utter darkness.

One can only assume that this brief work would've been fleshed out and revised a few more times had Nemirovsky been given the chance. It lacks the epic scope and immediacy of her other lost masterpiece. While superficially it may seem like a frivolous afterthought in the wake of "Suite Francaise", Nemirovsky makes it clear with "Fire in the Blood" that even at their basest levels matters of the heart are no small affair.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fire in the Blood audio CD Oct. 6 2007
By Meryl Osse - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Fire in the Blood
I cannot imagine a more beautifully written or narrated (Mark Bramhall) book. This is a masterpiece that engrosses the reader with the tastes, smells and textures of the French countryside in the early 1900's. Of course there's plenty of gossip and family scandal in this relatively short work of 3 CD's. You won't regret a minute spent in the company of Silvio, the character telling this quiet, but fascinating tale.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Wonderful! Oct. 28 2007
By Dubarnik - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have just finished "Fire in the Blood" by Irene Nemirovsky and am utterly overwhelmed by how good of a read it was. The narrative is rich but not so overly detailed that it is taxing. The characters are painted so carefully, so accurately, that their humanity is palpable. The story is captivating and has ... oh but I don't want to even risk spoiling it!

This book should be widely read. And if you are a sensitive soul, you'll enjoy it very much.
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