We first meet fiftyish Silvio living in rural France around 1940 in what his more prosperous, land-holding relatives refer to as a “rat hole” of a house. His own profligacy has reduced him to a simple existence of sitting by his fire, stroking his dog, and drinking a daily bottle of wine. He has just hosted a small gathering celebrating the pending marriage of his cousin Helene’s daughter, Collette, to a mill owner’s son. Lives led among these isolated people seem traditional, placid, and relatively uneventful.
However, in this short novel it becomes evident that beneath this serenity, lives of passion and desire simmer, in some cases with severe consequences. As Silvio recounts, it is the fire in the blood of those first becoming adults that drives all manner of madness – temporary insanity. But passion quickly recedes, leaving a lifetime to suppress the memories both to one’s self and to the community. It is interesting to see normally taciturn people subtly let it be known that nothing goes unnoticed, though usually tolerated, if for no reason other than to maintain the integrity of the community.
This little book is tightly constructed, slowly drawing in the reader as the hinted at connections and secrets are dramatically revealed. The melancholy is palpable as the trade-offs and compromises that last a lifetime must be made. And Silvio, at first a wise observer, is far more implicated than his quiet existence suggests.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"When she was writing Suite Francaise 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"[Némirovsky] coolly explores the heat of passions old and new...leav[ing] readers profoundly satisfied with this portrait of la vieille France...so manifestly dear to her."
by Charles Taylor, Newsday,
"Courageous, uncompromising....An entire world, vividly rendered, emerges from [these] pages....Némirovsky sets the tragedies of the plot in motion so unobtrusively, yet so surely, that when they come together the book has the inevitability — and yet the shock — that characterizes the books that mark us."
by Seattle Times,
"With startling economy, Némirovsky telegraphs the prejudices, passions and taboos that govern life in this isolated community....Translator Sandra Smith deftly renders its noirish bite into English, giving us a taste of what Némirovsky the writer was like before history handed her the subject matter that killed her."
by The Christian Science Monitor,
"[T]here's enough of Némirovsky's intelligence and caustic powers of observation to make Fire in the Blood more than a mere curiosity. For those who loved Suite Française, the existence of this quiet, melancholy story is good news."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[A] short elegiac novel about the brief yet passionate loves and infidelities of youth....Neither a masterpiece nor a curiosity but an elegant expression of universal longings rooted in a specific milieu, provincial France, that's observed with a caustic brilliance."
by San Antonio Express-News,
"Fire in the Blood is short, at only 126 pages, but it is finished and polished, expressing more than many 500-page novels....So rarely can readers find such theme-rich prose. Every page, every sentence is a treasure."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Although it is hard to match the power of Suite Française, Fire in the Blood is strangely engaging despite its overheated prose. Némirovsky again excavates the hypocrisy and self-serving impulses embedded in French culture — and, perhaps, all human nature."
From the author of the universally acclaimed and best-selling Suite Française, a newly discovered novel, a story of passion and long-kept secrets, set against the background of a rural French village in the years before World War II.
Written in 1941, the manuscript of Fire in the Blood was entrusted in pieces to family when the author was sent to her death at Auschwitz. The novel — only now assembled in its entirety — teems with the intertwined lives of an insular French village in the years before the war.
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