Introspective, intense and poignant, The Wine of Solitude is the most autobiographical of all Irène Némirovsky's novels, now available in English for the first time. Imbued with melancholy, and regret, it explores the troubled relationship between a young girl, her distant, self-absorbed mother and her mother's lover, Max. We follow the family through the Great War and the Russian Revolution, as the young Hélène grows from a dreamy, unhappy child into an angry young woman.
Through hot summers in a fictionalised Kiev (Némirovsky's own birthplace) and the cruel winters of St Petersburg, the would-be writer Hélène blossoms, despite her mother's neglect, into a clear-eyed observer of the life around her. The Wine of Solitude is a powerful tale, telling less of the end of innocence, than of disillusionment; the story of an upbringing that produces a young woman as hard as a diamond, prepared to wreak a shattering revenge on her mother.
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Haunting...profound...exquisitely wrought - Independent on Sunday
A wonderfully atmospheric novel...captivating and searingly honest - Guardian
The tangle of this unhappy family is beautifully and ruthlessly analysed... The relationship between mother and daughter is described with uncompromising lucidity... Némirovsky evokes the places of her childhood with a sensuous clarity - Guardian
A brilliant coming of age novel... Némirovsky is so honest and she never fluffs a line - Guardian, Books of the Year
The Wine of Solitude is an end-of-innocence story... It is Némirovsky's powers of social observation...the implacable eye for the nuances of human conduct, that make The Wine of Solitude so memorable - Financial Times
Sandra Smith's translation is mellifluous and certain passages - the opening lines describing dusk in Kiev, for example - are breathtaking - Financial Times
Némirovsky captures the rootless existence of emigres beautifully - The Herald
Beautifully written... Her ability to evoke the feeling of time and especially place is remarkable - Scotsman
One of the best of her early novels... It is written with luminous intensity - Evening Standard, Books of the Year
This is Némirovsky's most autobiographical novel...recalled in hauntingly atmospheric detail - Sunday Times, Books of the Year
An unerring portrait of a neglected, baleful and punitive daughter - Guardian, Books of the Year
Némirovsky excels at describing this dysfunctional household - Independent
Irène Némirovksy was born in Kiev in 1903, the daughter of a successful Jewish banker. In 1918 her family fled the Russian Revolution for France where she became a bestselling novelist, author of David Golder, Le Bal, The Courilof Affair, All Our Worldly Goods and other works published in her lifetime or soon after, as well as the posthumously published Suite Française and Fire in the Blood. The Wine of Solitude (Le Vin de Solitude) was first published in France in 1935. Némirovksy died in Auschwitz in 1942.
Sandra Smith is a fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge, and has translated all the novels of Irène Némirovksy available in English.
'Sandra Smith's translations are of the highest quality.' J.M. Coetzee, New York Review of Books