With elegant simplicity and unswerving honesty, Irene Nemirovsky chronicles the brutalizing effects of war on three ordinary Parisian families whose lives intertwine, spanning the years between 1912 and 1941.
What starts out as a glorious campaign in 1914, full of optimistic declarations of France's greatness, soon turns to shame and cynicism as the conflict drags on. Parisians, suffering from cold and hunger, seem unable or unwilling to comprehend the horrors of the trenches. Others, seeing the main chance, prosper as black-market racketeers.
Bernard, who had enlisted with high hopes, returns from the Western Front hardened and disillusioned; his one aim, as he faces the interwar years, is to make money in whatever way possible and to indulge his senses. For his childhood friend, Therese, widowed at 22, the pursuit of happiness now seems an impossible dream.
"To say this is a 'disturbing' novel is to simplify the response it arouses. One puts it down with unqualified admiration and a shudder of the mind." (John Sutherland, The Times)
"Beautifully promising...powerful, poignant." (Michele Roberts, Independent)
"Her writing is harder and more vicious.... Nemirovsky is fascinated by the impact of war on human behavior." (Louise Heighes, Metro)
"Revelatory...gripping and illuminating." (Peter Kemp, Sunday Times)
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