Alexandra's Reviews > Suite Française

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
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Nov 18, 08

bookshelves: 2008, 1001, francais, war
Read in June, 2008

I was so disappointed by this book that I actually feel compelled to write a review of it. I picked it up out of curiousity, because I had heard so many amazing things about it, and because the author's story was so compelling. To be completely fair, I was never drawn in by the description, or by the few initial paragraphs that I read before deciding to purchase it, but it appeared that it should be interesting enough to be given a try.

Reading positive reviews of the book, it seems that a main area of focus for other readers has been the author's tragic fate. There is little more romantic than an unfinished manuscript, written about the events that would eventually claim the author's own life. I'm sure an account of her story would be absolutely fascinating. I quite enjoyed reading her letters, which are appended to the two novellas. They paint a vivid picture of the uncertainty and suffering of the time, and are invaluable testaments to the realities of existence in occupied France during the second World War.

Unfortunately, when taken as integral parts of a piece of fiction, the story falls flat. This may be the simple result of the intended cycle of stories being unfinished, or simply of unappealing writing. There are moments of sublime description through the books, but overall the stories fall flat. I found myself not caring about the characters or their internal struggles. The subject matter should have been gripping, but ultimately it seems that Nemirovsky chose not to commit enough to an exploration of the characters' feelings. The stories seemed disjointed and pointless. This was slightly more evident during the first section, which is told in a series of linked vignettes, describing the characters' escape to the countryside, than in the second, which consisted of a more traditional narrative.

Eventually, though, I found myself disappointed, reading the book out of a sense of obligation and a mild curiousity as to whether it would ever come together in some way. This dissatisfaction on my part might simply have been caused by the fact that the book was unfinished. Regardless, I was saddened to find out that it didn't stand up to all reviews about it. Her story is still fascinating, but I don't think I'll be re-reading the book anytime soon.
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Kristen I agree with you that a lot of this didn't quite hang together. I did feel the 2nd had a clear unity and resolution. The 1st part made sense to me as a sort of panorama, but lacked resolution. In my own reading journal I did say the most tragic part of the entire book was the appendix describing the author's life and death. On the other hand, the novel had elements of farce that made me read it less for the tragedy than for the insight into human nature brought into relief by war. And for the "sublime description" you mentioned. Anyway, sorry you didn't like it! I quite enjoyed it.


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