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The Fires of Autumn by Irene Nemirovsky

Sarah Broadhurst's view...

The prequel to Suite Française, written two years before the author died in Auschwitz and published posthumously in France in 1957. It is the tale of an innocent who proudly went to war in 1914 only to return a very changed and bitter man. He lived his life on the edge of the law until another war loomed and much suffering ensued. This is a powerful, sad and brutal tale of the effects war had on ordinary people and a brilliant insight into French life and morals; excellent.

If you like Irene Nemirovsky you might also like to read books by William Boyd, Alain Fournier and Helen Dunmore.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. The prequel to the acclaimed Suite Française, this novel – written in the last two years of its author’s life after she had fled Paris in 1940 – spans the years from 1912 to 1941. It follows the fortunes of Parisian petit bourgeois families whose lives are intertwined: young men who go to war in 1914, who have ‘aged without having had the time to grow up’; the women who wait for them, and the parents whose expectations for their offspring must be altered or remain unfulfilled. In the aftermath of the fighting a new morality takes hold, civilisation appears undermined as the old order is put aside in favour of those with no scruples, no conscience, and fortunes can be made in careers seemingly without substance and essentially corrupt. But then a second conflict begins, and everything changes once more. A convincing portrait of human nature in the crucible of war.
~ Karen Howlett


The Fires of Autumn by Irene Nemirovsky

The Fires of Autumn was written in the last two years of Irene Nemirovsky's life, after she fled Paris in 1940. The prequel to her masterpiece, Suite Francaise, it is a panoramic exploration of French life and a witness to the greatest horrors of the twentieth century. After four years of bloody warfare Bernard Jacquelain returns from the trenches a changed man. No more the naive hopes and dreams of the teenager who went to war. Attracted by the lure of money and success, Bernard embarks on a life of luxuriant delinquency supported by suspect financial dealings and easy virtue. Yet when his lover throws him off, he turns to a wholesome childhood friend for comfort. For ten years he lives the good bourgeois life, but as another war threatens everything Bernard had clung to starts to crumble, and the future for his marriage and for France looks terribly uncertain. First published posthumously in France in 1957, The Fires of Autumn is a coruscating, tragic evocation of the reality of war and its dirty aftermath, and the ugly colour it can turn a man's soul.

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About the Author

Irène Némirovsky 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, such as the posthumously published Suite Française and Fire in the Blood. The Dogs and the Wolves, now appearing for the first time in English, was published in France in spring 1940, just months before France fell to the Nazis. She was prevented from publishing when the Germans occupied France and moved with her husband and two small daughters from Paris to the safety of the small village of Issy-l’Evêque (in German occupied territory). It was here that Irène began writing Suite Française. She died in Auschwitz in 1942.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Irene Nemirovsky

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