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Jezebel by Irène Némirovsky
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Jezebel (1936)

by Irène Némirovsky

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
I absolutely loved this book.
Its about a woman Gladys who is obsessed with her youth and her need to be a desirable woman. As the book progresses through the times and she ages,her attitude changes but age has it her main priority. Its amazing the lengths that this woman went to in order to maintain her youth and not age gracefully.
Although there are several other characters, you grow to focus solely on Gladys and how she is feeling. I felt sad that she had these thoughts and feelings that impacted her so hugely.
This book has left me wanted more from this author. A definate must read for me. ( )
  Nataliec7 | Jan 5, 2015 |
A very strong portrayal of a very unhappy woman. It begins with a mature but beautiful woman being charged with the murder of a young man. The defence convinces the court that the young man was her gigolo and he was blackmailing her. She does not refute the charges, but accepts the ruling of the court. We then read an account of her life and what lead to the murder which reveals the true identity of the victim.
This author has written some great novellas and this is one. ( )
  HelenBaker | Dec 30, 2014 |
Irene Nemirovsky is a genius. This is Dostoevsky compressed and a pocket Anna Karenina--a story about passion and the human condition. ( )
  newskepticx | Dec 18, 2013 |
The opening of this books is something of an infodump – a woman, Gladys Eysenach, is accused of murdering her young lover and her life story is related in a large chunk. The rest of the book goes back and covers her life up to that point, giving the reader a different view of the dispassionately related events. I thought that the in-depth look at Gladys would be more sympathetic than the judge’s description, which showed her to be a shallow, hedonistic woman. However, Nemirovsky’s portrayal of her is even more shallow and hedonistic, along with a side of creepy. The story is mostly told from Gladys’ POV and it can be a bit uncomfortable reading all her thoughts. It is all effectively done though, and the book is a penetrating and very readable depiction of a horrible person.

Gladys’ story starts when she is a young woman first realizing the power of her beauty. Her unhappy childhood up to that point prevented her from thinking about such things, but her cousin takes her out into society and she soon learns how attractive she is. Nemirovsky portrays Gladys’ life after that in a series of quick and effective scenes, summarizing several affairs and her marriage to Richard Eysenach. Richard is one of the few people who Gladys really cares about, and she thinks fondly of him for years after his death. However, there are hints that even that relationship is memorable mostly due to Gladys’ narcissism and obsession with youth. It seemed based on strict gender division – Richard was concerned with money and power, Gladys with looking good and being amenable – and Richard pretty much treated Gladys as a spoiled, pretty child. He also died before he could ever see her grow old.

Soon enough, Gladys starts lying about her age but her daughter, Marie-Therese, is evidence. Her relationship with her daughter is horribly selfish, competitive and disturbing. It becomes clear that she has no true friends – only women that she competes with and sees as rivals. Men are only seen as lovers or admirers. As she ages, she still remains beautiful but is no longer so stunning that men stop on the street or only pay attention to her, facts which cause Gladys to panic. Despite being extremely self-involved and narcissistic, she absolutely needs people to provide her with admiration, love and something to be compared (favorably) to. The war and other disruptions in the early decades of the 20th century give Gladys excuses to shed her social circle various times and lie about her age. Her obsession with her age prevents her from getting close to anyone and affects her relationship with the murdered man, Bernard Martin, which is also quite disturbing and unhealthy.

Gladys is not a character that anyone can like and I always felt some separation from her even though the book was mainly from her POV. It is certainly hard to sympathize with someone who thinks this –
“Yes, there was music, poetry, books…but she knew very well that those things were only useful to be more seductive, because even the most beautiful face can look tired, unattractive in a moment of boredom or fatigue; but to her, as for most women, such things meant nothing, they didn’t really affect her. A few passionate, melancholy lines or poetry, some beautiful, lyrical words: they were just offerings to a man, for him alone, and when the man was gone, nothing remained.”
However, Nemirovsky did a very good job getting into her head and clearly delineating her obsessions. Nemirovsky is probably as famous for her life as for her works and one part of her life that appeared in her books is the selfish and narcissistic mother. The introduction notes that her mother refused to take in Nemirovsky’s orphaned daughters after she and her husband died at Auschwitz and instead suggested they be taken to an orphanage. Obviously the author could have known nothing about this but it creates a horrible parallel to this book. One can readily imagine Gladys Eysenach doing such a thing as well. ( )
2 vote DieFledermaus | Jul 21, 2013 |
This was fascinating. Starts with the trial of an older woman, accused of murdering her young lover. The rest of the book is the story of her life, culminating the the murder (I won't let on whodunit). The woman is Gladys, and her life is told from a young girl to the present time. She's not very likeable; she's attractive to men, but very self absorbed (in my mind). And that self absorbtion is the cause of her current predicament. I found myself feeling sorry for her, but thinking that it was largely self inflicted.
There's a distinct twist in the tail and it's a good read. ( )
  Helenliz | Mar 31, 2013 |
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A woman stepped into the dock.
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In a French courtroom, the trial of a woman is taking place. Gladys Eysenach is no longer young, but she is still beautiful, elegant, cold. She is accused of shooting dead her much-younger lover. As the witnesses take the stand and the case unfolds, Gladys relives fragments of her past: her childhood, her absent father, her marriage, her turbulent relationship with her daughter, her decline, and then the final irrevocable act.… (more)

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