Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Review: Jezebel

Jezebel by Irène Némirovsky 
Published: 2010 (first published 1936)
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 199
Source: Library
'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.'

Jezebel was a book I picked up on impulse in the library, on remembering how much I loved Suite Française. It's not the type of book I'd usually read, but I wanted to take a break from horror and long, 900-page novels (I'm looking at you Stephen King).

I was morbidly curious on reading the blurb, and indeed throughout the entire book, watching the decline of Gladys, half-hating her and half-pitying her. This is not a book full of characters who are good people, or even likeable most of the time. I found myself wanting to tear my hair out at their actions and emotional immaturity, and at times Gladys reminded of both Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire, and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby. Gladys is rich, self-absorbed, and cares for little else than her looks and the attention of men, and I found it pretty much impossible to identify with her. Thank God for Gladys' daughter, who was one of the only characters who I liked and fully sympathised with.

Although none of the characters are very likeable, nor are any of them flat. They all have histories, their own lives, their skeletons in their closets and their desires. I wanted to know more about them, even if I didn't really care for them. They were intriguing, like grotesque creatures in a museum.

Despite this not being a book I'd usually read, and my contempt for the characters, I was interested the entire way through and read it in chunks over a period of three days. The writing was superb and beautiful, as with all of Némirovsky's books that I have read, and I felt satisfied and satiated when the novel came to its conclusion.  Overall, I recommend this book if this is the kind of story you're looking for, and if you're interested in Irène Némirovsky's beautiful storytelling.

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