Jezebel is a study in narcissism verging on nymphomania wherein a beautiful, wealthy woman spends her life fighting off growing older, losing her appeal to men, and the legacy of her cruelty to her daughter and her daughter's illegitimate son.
The novel's form is interesting. It begins with a contemporary court proceeding in which the protagonist, Gladys, is tried for murder. Quickly, the story moves back in her life and traces the progression of her self-involvement and self-indulgence.
As a psychological study, this is a good book in one sense, not so good in another. It's good in that it maintains a clear focus on a woman's personal obsessions; it's not so good in that the unsympathetic woman in question is predictable and shallow. At a point in her life, age 50 or so, she begins going to bordellos, apparently offering herself for love at a price. That's a pretty radical thing for a wealthy socialite to do; it's not thoroughly explored, however. At other points, Gladys appears deeply attracted to certain lovers, but the lovers are not well fleshed-out.
I won't go into the final conflict, but it's overwhelming for Gladys, and her nemesis is a brutal individual (who has his reasons) with some genuine darkness in his soul.
As usual, Nemirovsky excels in creating settings and atmospheres with quick broad strokes. She's an efficient and effective writer, but at some point, you have to ask yourself if you want to read about someone like Gladys. You certainly wouldn't want to know her.
Causes Robert Earle Supports
World Wildlife Fund