Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Dogs and the Wolves - Irene Nemirovsky

While it is set earlier than Suite Française, and not exclusively in France, The Dogs and the Wolves is nevertheless a similar mixture of the epic and the intimate. The divisions in the Sinner family run deep, with one branch privileged and cultured, the other struggling for stability. Ada Sinner glimpses her more fortunate cousin Harry several times throughout their childhood, and feels herself drawn to him, much to her other cousin Ben’s disgust.

As the families move to Paris, the distinctions between them grow, and yet Ada remains convinced Harry is part of her destiny, and is unwilling to let this go despite the obvious barriers between them. The poignant prose leads to a feeling of inevitability, highlighting the barriers constructed by society that were generally insurmountable, especially for Jewish foreigners in Paris between the wars. However, it is clear throughout that the wheel of fortune is always turning, and none of the protagonists know where the next revolution will take them.

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