About the book
The Misunderstanding is Irène Némirovsky's first novel, written when she was just twenty-one and published in a literary journal two years later. An intense story of self-destructive and blighted love, it is also a tragic satire of French society after the Great War.
Yves Harteloup, scarred by the war, is a disappointed young man, old money fallen on hard times, who returns for the summer to the rich, comfortable Atlantic resort of Hendaye, where he spent blissful childhood holidays. He becomes infatuated with a beautiful, bored young woman, Denise, whose rich husband is often away on business. Intoxicated by summer nights and Yves' intensity, Denise falls passionately in love, before the idyll has to end and Yves must return to his mundane office job.
In the mournful Paris autumn their love flounders on mutual misunderstanding, in the apparently unbridgeable gap between a life of idle wealth and the demands of making a living, between a woman's needs and a man's way of loving. As Denise is driven mad with desire and jealous suspicion, Yves, too sure of her, tortures himself and her with his emotional ambivalence. Taking her sophisticated mother's advice, Denise takes action...which she may regret forever.
With a sharp satirical eye and a characteristic perception for the fault lines in human relationships, Irène Némirovsky's first novel shows sure signs of the brilliant novelist she was to become.