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The Wine of Solitude

The Wine of Solitude

The Wine of Solitude Introspective and poignant, The Wine of Solitude is the most autobiographical of all of the novels from the celebrated author of Suite Française.
 
Beginning in a fictionalized Kiev, The Wine of Solitude follows the Karol family through the Great War and the Russian Revolution, as the young Hélène grows from a dreamy, unhappy child into a strongwilled young woman. From the hot Kiev summers to the cruel winters of St Petersburg and eventually to springtime in Paris, the would-be writer

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3 responses to “The Wine of Solitude”

  1. James Ferguson says:
    6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Wine turns to vinegar, August 28, 2012
    By 
    James Ferguson (Vilnius, Lithuania) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: The Wine of Solitude (Hardcover)

    The wine quickly turns to vinegar in this story, as Irene Nemirovsky fashions a novel around her early life in Kiev, Petersburg, a remote region in Finland and ultimately Paris. As a set of memoirs it is interesting to read, as Nemirovsky provides her fans with a number of salient details, but as a novel it is rather banal, told in third person although we see the story exclusively through the eyes of the protagonist, Helene Karol, from age 11 to 21.

    Obviously, Irene hated her mother. She paints her in the most harsh terms, while doting over her father who manages to rise from a bookkeeper in Kiev to a rich investment banker in Petersburg thanks to a gold deal he struck in Siberia after he was fired, due to his wife flaunting herself in public. As his business deals keep him largely away from home a still young mother takes on a younger lover, much to her daughter’s chagrin, planting the seeds of hatred that would ultimately fuel Helene’s “revenge.”

    But, this is less a revenge novel than it is a set of memoirs which offer some tasty pictures of young Irene anxious to break the bounds of the aristocratic lifestyle she lives in. Seems her only friend is a French governess who schools her so well in French and its customs that she feels more French than Russian, more Catholic than Jewish. The family summers in Paris are her only reprieve growing up, and she desperately longs to make her time there permanent.

    Sadly, Nemirovsky doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. We see her as a petulant and angry child throughout the first half of the book, emerging into an uneasy womanhood in the second half where she learns the art of flirting in a village of Russian emigres in Finland, by toying with a young man named “Fred,” who has a family of his own. This inspires her to plot her revenge against her mother.

    Meanwhile, dear old Dad is busy socking away money, shares, bonds and whatever else he can easily transport as the civil war in Russia threatens to change the old order. One can understand her resentment against her mother, but there isn’t much about her father to suggest he was a better alternative. Seeing so little of him, Irene projects on him a more positive image. Ultimately, she finds herself alone, hence the title of the novel, forced to make decisions for herself that she doesn’t want to make.

    Nemirovsky fans should enjoy the novel, but those new to her you may want to look somewhere else first.

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  2. JTN says:
    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    An exceptional novel by an exceptional author, August 1, 2012
    By 
    JTN (Egg Harbor Twp, NJ USA) –

    This review is from: The Wine of Solitude (Hardcover)

    I read this in the original French, so I can’t speak to the quality of translation, but this novel is a real gem. It is quasi-biographical, even more so than her other works, many of which draw on the author’s personal experiences, especially the highly dysfunctional relationship that she had with her mother. Irène Némirovsky never lost the ability to capture the perspective of young children in a most stunning way. The young Hélène’s perspective contributes as much to this story as does the panorama of historical events, which provide a fascinating backdrop to her experiences and those of her family. The revenge that Irène Némirovsky takes on her mother is more in the depiction of her in this novel and others than in anything that Hélène does to her mother. The implied ending in the above description applies more to “Le Bal”. I really enjoyed “Suite Française”, but “Le Vin de Solitude” is by far the better read. The editorial praise for this book is in no way exaggerated. It is magnificent!

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  3. Adriana Shell says:
    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hauntingly Majestic!, March 28, 2013
    By 
    Adriana Shell (Prescott, AZ United States) –

    This review is from: The Wine of Solitude (Paperback)

    There isn’t enough I can say about this author! Originally penned in French in 1935, & recently translated in English. It is hard for me to decide what I enjoyed more, the subject or the prose. This is an autobiographical novel, which is what makes it so powerful & creates such an impact with the reader. It is a dismal, very real novel. Not for someone looking for a quick weekend read! This is about pain that is endured for many years throughout a young woman’s life without a happy ending!

    You feel such sorrow for this girl Helene growing up during such a depressed time in her country, her life, & the world. Her innocence turns to rage as she matures seeking revenge, saddened by these harsh realities she learns to forgive, ultimately moving on to a life of solitude becoming who she is today….”but my solitude is powerful and intoxicating”.

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