Publishing Fire in the Blood as a freestanding novel does a disservice both to Némirovsky and to the narrative itself. It’s difficult enough with her work to be sure that what we’re seeing is what she would have sent out to the world: the original 37 pages were typed by her husband, and most of the rest found, in manuscript form, with her papers. Vintage has manged to stretch it to 129 pages but it is at best a novella.
So I’m trying not to carp at the slightness. What bothers me more is that this is another one of those tales, not unlike Out Stealing Horses, that seems to be the ruminations of an elderly man who has withdrawn from life… but wait! He has his memories! Per Petterson handled this better: you got the sense that his narrator was hiding something. Sylvestre/Silvio in this book never establishes himself as a character, and the gradual revelation of his secret just isn’t that interesting.
On the plus side, lots of atmosphere: rural France in the early 1940s wasn’t all that different from the rural France of Madame Bovary.