Marika Gillis's Reviews > Suite Française

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
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's review
Apr 06, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read in March, 2009

"I must create something great and stop wondering if there's any point."
-Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky, a famous writer living in Paris, intended to write a novel containing five distinct sections about World War II. The first two novellas were written as the war evolved in the early 1940s. But, the rest she never finished.

Storms in June tells the amazing journey of men and women as they fled from Paris the night before the Germans occupied the city. The frenzied perspective of this historic event flutters from one character to another the way a leaf is carried by the wind. The panic and fragmented stories of a vast number of characters reflects the shattered disconnection the people felt as they fled in fear. While many of these characters are selfish and unlikeable, Nemirovsky writes their stories with intense humanity.

The second quieter novella, Dolce, tells about the German occupation of a small French village. Many of the soldiers lived in the homes of the villagers, where their meals were shared and their lives became intertwined. Lucile, one of the villagers, is living in her mother-in-law's home while her husband is a prisoner of the war. A German soldier comes to live with them and, despite the tense wariness the presence of the enemy derives, Lucile finds herself inappropriately drawn to him. Amazingly, Nemirovsky wrote these stories with contemplative reflection while they were occurring around her.

While Suite Francaise is intense and beautifully written, Storms in June is a bit disjointed and Dolce moves rather slowly. It is a rough draft. In fact, the story behind the book may be slightly more interesting than the book itself. Irene Nemirovsky was writing this book when she was sent to Auschwitz. The book includes two appendices that are quite fascinating. The first includes her plans for the remaining three parts of the book. This appendix shows the inner workings of her writing process and gives the reader an idea of the direction she was taking the book and it's apparent in her notes that revisions would have been made to the Storms in June and Dolce as well. The second appendix includes correspondence between Nemirovsky's husband and friends after she was taken to Auschwitz. They clearly illustrate the panicked anguish her husband felt before he, too, was taken to concentration camp. Both Irene and her husband were killed. If you pick this book up, do not skip the appendices. They are quite compelling.

Irene Nemirovsky's daughters didn't read the unfinished manuscript of Suite Francaise, believing it to be a journal and thus too painful to read. When it was discovered to be a manuscript, some 60 years later, it was subsequently published and has been a national bestseller. It's worth reading.
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Reading Progress

03/23 page 59
02/11 marked as: read

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-3 of 3) </span> <span class="smallText">(3 new)</span>

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Juanita Will you be able to join us for next month's Booklovers group?

message 2: by Danica (new)

Danica I still haven't finished this one. I put it aside while I read "Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahari which I really enjoyed. Might try to finish this one on the plane tomorrow. What'd you think? Did it ever pick up?

Marika Gillis I really liked Namesake too! Suite Francaise was good. I liked the second half (Dolce) better than Storms in June. My favorite parts, though, were the appendices in the back. They are the notes Nemirovsky had for the rest of the book, and the correspondences between people searching for her after she was taken. That part was fascinating to me, and so sad. I think it's an important book. I hope it picks up for you! See you soon! Can't wait!

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