The Week in Books 2008, No. 39

This week I read a collection of Irene Nemirovsky’s stories, including David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, and The Courilof Affair.
It was interesting to read the stories one after another, to see how Nemirovsky developed certain characters in similar ways. For example, she explores the type of woman who spends her life cultivating outer beauty, utterly neglecting inner qualities, and then finds herself getting old with the ugliness peeking through. It’s as if Nemirovsky is examining that type of woman from afar, without really getting inside them – perhaps because she thinks there is nothing worth seeing. In several of the stories the young daughters already show signs of becoming like their mothers, even as they despise the older women for getting old and unattractive. Although the contrast only takes center stage in one of the stories, the juxtaposition of mothers and daughters made me think about how the decisions we make at 14 or 18 or 24 and so on shape and impact the women we will become in our later years.

Meanwhile, the stories themselves are absorbing and I think you’d enjoy them if you like Nemirovsky’s style.

I’ve got six other books going at once, and I hope to finish at least a few of them in time for next week’s edition of The Week in Books 2008. Are any of you reading anything you’d recommend?

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