Review: Le Bal/Snow in Autumn — Irene Nemirovsky

Read: 18
To Go: 82

Book List:
11. Blue Monday — Nicci French
12. Mrs. Kennedy and Me — Clint Hill
13. The Imperfectionists — Tom Rachman
14. The Rage — Gene Kerrigan
15. Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler — Trudi Kanter
16. The Drowning — Camilla Lackberg
17. Le Bal — Irene Nemirovsky
18. Snow In Autumn — Irene Nemirovsky

9780099493976

I’m still writing up back-logged reviews, and since Le Bal and Snow in Autumn were in the same book, I’ve decided to do them in the same post, to conserve space (and cut down on emails for my blog followers). Also, because the stories were only about 50 pages each. Is it cheating to consider them each full books on my list? Perhaps. But all in the name of the challenge!

In Le Bal, the Kampf family, full of new money and eager to ingratiate themselves into Parisian society, decide to throw a ball. But when Madame Kampf forbids her teenage daughter, Antoinette, from attending the ball, Antoinette’s anger prompts her to exact a swift revenge.

At the heart of Le Bal is the tension that permeates every teenage daughter’s relationship with her mother: Antoinette wants freedom, she wants to be a grown-up, and can’t understand why her mother stubbornly refuses to treat her with the respect she feels she deserves. At the same time, her tireless efforts to be seen as more mature only reveal how childish she really is. It’s a narrative that rings painfully true, but I loved the way Nemirovsky chose to end the story: Antoinette’s cruel actions have the unexpected result of bringing her and her mother closer together.

Snow in Autumn’s Tatiana Ivanovna, an aging Russian servant, flees revolutionary Moscow with her masters, and together they settle in Paris. Though the family is, for the most part, able to adjust to their new life, Tatiana struggles most with the move. Her desperate longing for Russia’s early autumn snows becomes a manifestation of her nostalgia and unhappiness.

I didn’t feel as compelled by Snow in Autumn as I did by Nemirovsky’s previous story, but it was strong, and it kept my attention. Tatiana’s homesickness was relatable and touching, and the final pages of the story, when she walks through Paris on the morning of its first (light) snow in a state of hallucination, strike a bittersweet tone.

Next book: The Black Echo — Michael Connelly

– Kelsey

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