Élisabeth Gille (1937–1996) was born in Paris, the daughter of Michel Epstein, a banker, and of the novelist Irène Némirovsky. In 1942, both parents were deported to Auschwitz, where they died, but Gille and her older sister, Denise, lived out the duration of World War II in hiding. Gille worked for many years as an editor and translator, especially of science fiction, and she was over fifty when her first book, The Mirador, appeared and was immediately recognized as a major achievement. Before her death she also published Le Crabe sur la banquette arrière (The Crab in the Backseat), a mordantly funny examination of people’s responses to her battle with cancer, and a short novel that reflects her and her sister’s life in the years after their parents’ disappearance, Un paysage de cendres, translated into English as Shadows of a Childhood.
Élisabeth Gille was five years old when her mother, Irène Némirovsky, (whose Suite Française would be a surprise best-seller six decades later) died in Auschwitz. The Mirador is a lookout from which Gille reconstructs the story of her mother’s life, from child of privilege in Kiev, to renowned novelist, to fugitive in rural France. “[Gille] sets out to live in her mothers head.” —The Nation