The Wine of Solitude by Irène Némirovsky

The Wine of Solitude

It is said out of all Irène Némirovsky’s novels The Wine of Solitude is the most autobiographical. Dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships are a recurring theme in Némirovsky’s novels I have read, but none of them have examined those relationships up close like The Wine of Solitude.

In The Wine of Solitude, Hélène Karol’s mother is a beautiful woman with a much younger lover, and her father is a hardworking man who turns a blind eye towards his wife’s dalliances. With both of them absorbed in their worlds, Mademoiselle Rose, Hélène’s Parisian nanny is the only one who truly cares for Hélène. One day after Rose dies tragically on a cold night in the streets of St. Petersburg soon after she was dismissed by Hélène’s mother in a fit of rage, Hélène becomes determined to seek revenge on her mother. So The Wine of Solitude is the story of Hélène’s quest for revenge.

One aspect I liked most about the novel is its ending. We see Hélène blossoming from the little girl who lost her beloved nanny into a confident, beautiful woman who is always scheming against her mother, before coming to turns with the self-realization which would finally liberate her.

The Wine of Solitude also highlights the skillful writing of Irène Némirovsky, beautifully portraying the places from Ukraine to Paris and beyond. This is the opening paragraph;

In the part of the world where Hélène Karol was born, dusk began with a thick cloud of dust that swirled slowly in the air before drifting to the ground, bringing the damp night with it. A hazy, reddish light lingered low in the sky; the wind brought the smell of the Ukrainian plains to the city, a mild yet bitter scent of smoke, cold water and rushes that grew along the riverbanks. The wind blew in from Asia; it had pushed its way between the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea; it brought with it whirls of yellow dust that cracked between the teeth; it was dry and biting; it filled the air with a howl that faded as it disappeared towards the west. Then all was calm. The setting sun, pale and dull, veiled behind whitish clouds, sank deep into the river.

The Wine of Solitude is a good novel, and I would have liked to give it 4 stars. But I feel the story is not good enough when compared to The Courilof Affair, David Golder, or The Misunderstanding, and that is why I stopped at 3 stars.

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8 comments

  1. I have read one Nemirovsky novel and two collections of stories. This sounds excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is my fifth Irène Némirovsky novel, and I love them all! Each time I read her books, it makes me wonder what more she would have written if she had survived.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just received this book for free from Goodreads. I will read your review later so we can compare. Very excited as I just came back from a two week visit in Paris!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I look forward to reading your thoughts. Hope you had a lovely time in Paris! 🙂

      Like

  3. I loved Suite Francaise and The Couriloff Affair – it’s so exciting to know that there are more Nemirovsky books waiting for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved The Couriloff Affair. Irène Némirovsky continues to amaze me!

      Like

  4. I had an amazing time in Paris. I had never heard of this author before. I am glad you like her. I trust your taste.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, she’s a gem of a writer! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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