The Fires of Autumn by Irène Némirovsky – review

The fires of AutumnJust arrived is The Fires of Autumn by Irène Némirovsky. It  was written in the last two years of Irène Némirovsky’s life, after she fled Paris in 1940. The prequel to her masterpiece, ‘Suite Française’, (we haven’t got it, but it’s on order) it’s a panoramic exploration of French life and a witness to the greatest horrors of the twentieth century.

After four years of bloody warfare Bernard Jacquelain returns from the trenches a changed man. No more the naïve hopes and dreams of the teenager who went to war. Attracted by the lure of money and success, Bernard embarks on a life of luxuriant delinquency supported by suspect financial dealings and easy virtue.

Yet when his lover throws him off, he turns to a wholesome childhood friend for comfort. For ten years he lives the good bourgeois life, but as another war threatens everything Bernard had clung to starts to crumble, and the future for his marriage and for France looks terribly uncertain.

“First published posthumously in France in 1957, The Fires of Autumn is a coruscating, tragic evocation of the reality of war and its dirty aftermath, and the ugly colour it can turn a man’s soul.” The Independent

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