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Jezebel (Vintage International Original) Paperback – May 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Irene Nemirovsky and Jezebel:
“Engrossing. . . . A fascinating portrait of paranoid self-absorption.”
Financial Times
“Fast-paced and highly dramatic, Jezebel offers a fascinating glimpse into an inter-war world of privilege, wealth and Darwinian social combat.”
New Statesman
“Nemirovsky wrote, for all to read at last, some of the greatest, most humane and inclusive fiction that conflict has produced.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Nemirovsky’s scope is like that of Tolstoy: She sees the fullness of humanity and its tenuous arrangements and manages to put them together with a tone that is affectionate, patient, and relentlessly honest.”
O, The Oprah Magazine
“Extraordinary. . . . Nemirovsky achieves her penetrating insights with Flaubertian objectivity.”
The Washington Post Book World
“Brilliant. . . . [Nemirovsky wrote] with supreme lucidity [and] expressed with great emotional precision her understanding of the country that betrayed her.”
The Nation
“Transcendent, astonishing. . . . Like Anne Frank, Irene Nemirovsky was unaware of neither her circumstance nor the growing probability that she might not survive. And still, she writes to us.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

About the Author

Irene Nemirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 into a wealthy banking family and immigrated to France during the Russian Revolution. After attending the Sorbonne in Paris, she began to write and swiftly achieved success with David Golder, which was followed by more than a dozen other books. Throughout her lifetime she published widely in French newspapers and literary journals. She died in Auschwitz in 1942. More than sixty years later, Suite Francaise was published posthumously for the first time in 2006.


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International Original
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307745465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307745460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book somewhat painful to read, but good to think about afterwards. The story is set in the early twentieth century and goes through the Great War. The central character, Gladys Eysenach, is a vain and frivolous woman obsessed to the point of madness with staying forever young and desirable.

Gladys has the kind of beauty that lasts beyond middle age and attracts admirers at every turn. Her great wealth helps her support the illusion of endless youth. Her biggest problem is her daughter who, although obliging in most ways, persists in getting older every year. Gladys is too young to have a grown-up daughter!

I won't give any details of the plot, so you can experience the emotional shocks fresh. Jezebel is a tour de force, with its single-minded focus on the disturbing psychology of Gladys and her hedonistic world.

Jezebel was published in French in 1936 and in English in 1937.

Translator Sandra Smith gives us a telling fact in her short but informative introduction. Irene Nemirovsky's mother Fanny dressed her in children's clothes well into Irene's teens, as a way of denying her own age. We need look no further than Fanny to understand the power of this book to distress and horrify.

This is not comfort reading. Rather, it's fiercely thought-provoking - an all-out indictment of the cult of youth and beauty that we still suffer from today. If you're exploring all the works of Irene Nemirovsky, as I am, you'll want to include Jezebel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Slade Allenbury on September 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Jezebel" is a great piece of pulp fiction. It would have made a great 1950s film starring Joan Crawford or Bette Davis. Like Horace McCoy's classic pulp fiction, "They Shoot Horses Don't They," it begins with a murder trial and then backtracks to show you just exactly why that trial had to take place. The story involves murder, blackmail, and plenty of sexual shenanigans. The title character (whose name is actually Gladys Eysenbach) is one of the great villainesses of 20th Century fiction, as self-centered and malicious as Mildred Pierce's daughter Vida. The book -- at least the English translation -- truly reads as if it had been written by James M. Cain. No matter what you might have thought of "Suite Francaise" (I thought it over-rated, a promising first draft of a novel that, tragically, was never allowed to ripen) you ought to try "Jezebel." Eerily, the novel prefigures the fate of Irene Nemirovsky's daughters who, after their parents died at Auschwitz, were turned away by Nemirovsky's own mother, who chose to send them to an orphanage rather than acknowledge to the world that she was old enough to be a grandmother. "Jezebel" and another Nemirovsky novel ("David Golder") both draw on Nemirovsky's own relationship with her monstrous mother. When that monster died, it was discovered that she had only two items in the safe in her apartment: a copy of "David Golder" and a copy of "Jezebel" -- proving that life can sometimes be as heavy-handed as the most lurid of pulp fictions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Nemirovsky's novel is an absolutely scathing indictment of a woman's obsession with beauty, with the power that surges through her veins when she becomes the object of a man's rapt attention. Raised by a cold, brittle mother with no affection, Gladys Burnera gains immeasurable comfort when she realizes the power of her attractiveness, early addicted to the exuberance of a moment's thrill, a glowing young woman crossing the threshold between tentative confidence and blissful assuredness, a drug that grows more seductive with time and conquest. Though fulfilling in the moment, ultimately, the protagonist's narcissism brings about great unhappiness for those in her life. But before she is met with a reckoning for a careless romp through romance across continents, Gladys wallows in the destructive power awarded to few beauties.

When the novel begins, an older but still beautiful Gladys is on trial in a French courtroom for the murder of a twenty-year-old man, Bernard Martin. A succession of witnesses effectively annihilates any defense, especially as Gladys (Burnera) Eysenach offers no rebuttal to her part in the man's demise. The following chapters reveal the real story, from Gladys' first heady awareness that extraordinary beauty has its own unique power to subjugate and manipulate men. Marriage brings Gladys the wealth to live as she chooses, without the restrictions that might temper her excesses. The degree of waste and tragedy in her life is the collateral damage of the true narcissist, the twisted cunning of a warped personality. Nemirovsky eloquently captures the outward beauty and inner decay of a woman in thrall to her own image, her only real enemy and the instrument of her defeat, the inevitable, deadly passage of time. Luan Gaines/2012.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Griffith on May 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Madame Nemirovsky is a wonderful writer & she conveys exactly what she intends in a readable, understandable way. However, this book was hard to read. The main character is impossible to like or even care just a little about. She is shallow in the way we think of some actresses being - only looks & admiration mean anything & everything. I started to put it away about half way through but had to go back & "see what happens!" Then it didn't really end - maybe I was hoping for some sign of change in the main character & there was none. I am glad I finished it though. Now I can stop wondering & forget it. However, in the future, when I see extremely self-absorbed people I will probably think again of this poor pitiful woman. Madame Nemirovsky makes her subjects personalities come to life in just a page of two.

Suite Francaise was wonderful!
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