Silvio is growing old in his quiet Burgundy house and as the narrator of this story, tells us of the story of his cousins, their family, his neighbours and friends. In his seemingly mundane community, he gradually reveals to us the love, relationships, tragedy and passion that are present now and in the past, and how they affect those whose eyes flash with the passion of the “fire in the blood” that flows through them.
I read Suite Francaise last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it, and I wasn’t expecting Fire In The Blood to live up to the same standard, but for me, it actually surpassed it. Némirovsky perfectly describes the rural country villages and towns of between the wars France, with beautiful descriptions of people (“He seemed a good lad, his face thin and soft, with the beautiful anxious eyes of a hare”) and places(“the azure blue of the day grows misty, turns almost green; colour slowly melts away, leaving a delicate hue that is midway between translucent pearl and steel grey”), as well as conveying the emotions of each of the characters with clarity and brevity. Silvio’s narration allows us an apparently objective view of the various family members and their friends and acquaintances, though as the book draws to a conclusion, his own past is revealed along with revelations of relationships that echo through the generations.
The translation of the novel is by Sandra Smith, and for the most part, I loved it, but I did have one extremely minor quibble, when one of the characters refers to “Mum”, as I felt that as all the character names were left as their original French version, I would have preferred this reference to have been to “Mama” or “Maman”. The use of Aunt and Uncle didn’t bother me at all though, it was just this one use of “Mum” that just felt a bit awkward in amongst the French names.
An excellent book, and very brief at just 153 pages, but I would definitely recommend it to others.