Laura's Reviews > Suite Française

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
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Suite Francaise requires slow and careful reading in order to appreciate its scope, its historical significance, and its range of human characters and emotions. Suite Française—comprising the first two parts of a planned five-part novel—succeeds as a piece of literature that probes the heights and depths of human nature.

Suite Francaise’s first part, ‘Storm in June,’ details the characters’ hasty departure from Paris in the summer of 1940. The second part, ‘Dolce,’ details life in a German occupied French village. In each of these parts, Nemirovsky weaves together multiple stories seamlessly so that readers recognize that while the experience of war does look different depending on one’s angle–whether it be victor or vanquished–war has long-lasting, deleterious effects on all who come within its inexorable reach.

Characters from Part 1 (such as the family Pericands, writer Gabriel Corte, gas-thief Charles Langelet, the bank employee Michauds) and from Part 2 (such as Lucile Angellier and her mother-in-law, their live-in German commander Bruno von Falk, and Benoît and Madeleine Sabarie) each have his or her moral fiber tested to the breaking point (and, in many cases, broken) by the war.

In both parts, Nemirovsky juxtaposes extraordinary scenic beauty and human cruelty. She shows the raw and ranging emotion experienced by all individuals touched by the war–fear and resignation, contempt and compassion, narcissism and selflessness, revenge and forgiveness, hate and love. Suite Francaise’s poignancy and tragedy is augmented by its author’s fate; in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Irene Nemirovsky died a month later at the age of thirty-nine leaving the world with only story fragments and plot outlines of the remaining three pieces of her masterpiece.

For more works by Nemirovsky, 2007 saw the publishing of Fire in the Blood a posthumously published work that also speaks to village life in France (albeit pre-war this time) as well as to the human condition.

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