Chelsea's Reviews > Suite Française

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
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Jun 02, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2012
Read from May 26 to June 02, 2012

I think this book will haunt me for a very long time. It is only the first 2 parts of what was to be a 5 part epic novel about the French occupation but was not finished as the author herself was jewish and killed at Auschwitz before she could finish it. Nemirovsky was clearly a fan of Tolstoy and Hugo as this was written after their fashion. It introduces you to an array of characters and then slowly ties there lives together over with intermittent historical sketches. For this reason I had a hard time getting into the first 40 pages and keeping track of all the character but once all had been introduced I was hooked and had a hard time putting this book down. I was glad that there were notes left as to where she was going to take the story for the last 3 sections but still fest I was just getting to the true climax when the second part ended. Despite being unfinished this is a clear literary masterpiece.

Nemirovsky paints an honest picture of humanity, war and its effects on individuals using beautiful imagery, metaphors and comparisons of contradicting elements. Her underlying theme that war only exacerbates the human qualities that already exist in each of us, whether bad or good, makes it difficult to know who the true enemy is. As a reader you come to love certain French and German characters and despise others as she reveals there varying human qualities of charity, love, courage, selfishness and fear.

This piece is also a historical gem as it sheds so much light on the banality of the day to day life in France under German occupation. As an exchange student in France during my university education I lived about a 30 minute train ride from Vichy. One weekend fellow american students and I took a day trip to see what we could learn about the collaborating government and were surprised to find nothing. No markers of where the government headquarters at been, no historical plaques and no citizens who would speak to us about it. True to the characters in this book the defeat of their army and country was a humiliation that seems to be completely ignored as if not acknowledging means it didn't really happen.

I have never felt the presence of an author as much as I did in this book. Maybe it is because of her own tragic outcome or because she was a contemporary to the events of which she writes but either way this book has given me much to contemplate and think about. I can not recommend it enough.
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