Irene Nemirovsky's own life was as dramatic as any fiction. Dead at 39, author of 16 novels, a biography of Chekhov and many stories, few writers enjoy a posthumous resurgence as astonishing as hers after the international triumph of Suite Francaise. She was born in 1903 in Kiev to a well-off Jewish family. The authors of this fascinating biography have had access to previously unpublished documents and to surviving family members in Russia, researching her childhood in the Ukraine, and tracing her odyssey first to St Petersburg, where her father was a successful financier, and then, as the family was forced to flee the Russian Revolution, to Finland, Sweden and finally France in 1919. They settled in Paris, and in 1926 she married another Jewish emigre, Michel Epstein. With the publication of David Golder in 1929 - delivered to a publisher just before the birth of her first daughter, Irene swiftly became an acclaimed and successful writer. Her biographers, (who had access to all her writing diaries) examine in detail the way she used her life in her fiction, from pogroms in Ukraine to gilded holidays in Biarritz, and especially the troubled relationship with her capitalist father and her vain mother. By 1937, and with the birth of a second daughter, life for Irene and Michel was less easy. And the coming of the Second World War put paid to everything. When France fell to the Nazis, the family took refuge in a small Burgundy village, where she finished All Our Worldly Goods, wrote Fire in the Blood and immediately began Suite Francaise. In July 1942, Irene was arrested by the French police and deported to Auschwitz, where she died the following month. Meticulously researched and passionately felt, this is a vibrant biography of an exceptional writer and a moving portrait of a 20th-century woman and of her dramatic times.
Chatto & Windus
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