Saturday, July 24, 2010

BOOK: Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, 368 pages, plus appendices

Summer in Paris;  1001 Books to Read Before You Die

Part of what makes this novel of wartime France so compelling is knowing that Nemirovsky wrote of what she knew, and sadly, that she never survived the German invasion of  France. Nemirovsky was sent to a concentration camp and died before the war ended. Her daughters, hidden in homes during the war, carried her manuscripts with them and eventually had them published. Suite Francaise, which is composed of two section of a proposed five part novel was put together from Nemirovsky's notes. We can never know how she might have edited or changed what this book ended up becoming. Amazingly, it is still a great read and a wonderful, if incomplete story.

Storm in June covers the exodus from Paris after France fell. Alternating chapters show the many perspectives and experiences different classes of people had. Dolce is a smaller story, focusing on one small village under occupation by the Germans. Both give a view of what life would be like during a war and an uncomfortable occupation. Nemirovsky keeps the focus on the individual person, and the fact that she wrote this while the war was going on, with no idea of the eventual outcome, and kept such an impartial view impressed me.

The writing was fluid and poetic, in some parts more than others. I wondered if some of her asides in brackets were meant to be there or just notes to herself about character that she wanted to make sure to include later. All in all, her insight into human behaviour and feelings combined with the wonderful writing was what made this an engrossing book. And a very sad story - both hers and the novel.

also reviewed: lizzysidal at Lizzy's Literary Life, joanna from lost in a good story, caribousmom, jill at fizzythoughts,

Paris in July is being co-hosted by Karen from Book Bath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea.


  1. I just received this as a prize for our library's Summer reading program; while it's rather daunting to know that she wrote of what she'd experienced, I've been intrigued since I first heard of this book. I'm looking forward to reading it for Paris in July as you did.

  2. caspette said:
    One thing I found amazing is how kindly she treated the German characters considering what was going on in her own life. She showed the Germans as being well human, when most books/movies demonise the German army at that time.

    marg said:
    There is no doubt that the two parts felt unfinished, because of the asides. I would have loved to see the story end because I think it would have been good. For me, the story of what happened to the author was just as compelling, if not more, as what happened in the book.

    sally906 said:
    I was blown away by this book when i read it - was an 'A' read for me. So sad that the author died in the concentration camps herself. I haven't read Storm in June

    eva said:
    I'm loving all the French books I'm seeing on people's blogs right now. :) I really need to read this one some day soon.

    tricia said:
    Great review - this is one of the novels I want to read. I think I have it somewhere...

  3. Yes, such a sad story. We're very lucky that it survived and was published.

  4. I still haven't read this one! I'm so glad to see that you really enjoyed it.


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