Le maître des âmes — Irène Némirovsky

I read Suite française earlier this year and have been so keen to read more Némirovsky since then. This is a gripping account of the anti-Semitism and xenophobia of the interwar period in France, and what it is to be an outsider. ‘Le maître des âmes’ (the master of souls), Dario Asfar, is an immigrant doctor trying to establish a career in Nice in 1920.

Consistently eschewed by the wealthier, French patients who would make his work pay and haunted by the poverty in his immediate past, Asfar decides to do whatever it will take to achieve financial security.

Asfar is constantly fighting against the identity that society projects onto him, an obstacle thrown – repeatedly – in his path. But all that matters to him is that his son never knows the poverty he experienced. Even when his son rejects him, in horror at his methods, Asfar accepts that as another sacrifice required to achieve his goal.

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