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Suite Française
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1001 book reviews > Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

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Dree | 243 comments 5 stars

Wow.

I read half of this when it was first published in English, and lost it to a library queue. I started over, needless to say.

This story is incredible. That she was writing it essentially as it was occurring is more amazing. The story of the manuscript's survival is amazing (her elder daughter carried it with her in hiding in France, thinking it was a diary, not a manuscript). The notes she wrote about the rest of her planned 5-book work are so enticing. But of course she did not get to finish, being arrested just a day after her previous notes on the next book. And obviously she was not able to help refine the manuscript for publication. Yet it flows and is fascinating--though she clearly set out her goals in her many notes.
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The first book, Storm in June, captures the many classes of people fleeing 1942 Paris for the countryside as the Germans are coming. We meet members of several different families--rich and poor, upper middle and working classes. Each have their own concerns: their stuff, their children, food.

The second book, Dolce, examines the people in a small occupied French town. Most families have German soldiers living with them, many of husbands and sons who are POWs in Germany. The balance everyone tries to strike between French/German is tenuous. The balance between upper class rich landowners, landowner/farmers, farmers, and tradesmen adds an additional layer of loyalties (or not) to the book. Some of the characters from book 1 are mentioned.

If Nemirovsky had been able to finish her 5 books, we would have seen the same characters loop back into the story. Her notes are interesting, as she did not yet know where the story would go--it depended on what was happening in the actual war. Book 3 was beginning to take shape in her mind, but does not appear to have been begun.
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Nemirovsky was a well-known and well-regarded French writer before the war. Those earlier books may be worth looking for.


message 2: by Diane (last edited Mar 06, 2021 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Zwang | 1315 comments Mod
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
5/5

“When Irene Nemirovsky began working on Suite Francaise, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.”

War is raging in Europe and Nazi Germany has invaded France. As the Germans move through the country the French flee south in hopes of out running the Germans. War affects everyone; rich, poor, city folk, country folk, and families. This is the first two sections of Suite Francaise; Storm in June and Dolce. Irene's writing is so descriptive; her characters are easy to relate to and authentic. I felt like I was living the journey with her. The best part of the book is the appendices. Appendix I is Irene Nemirovsky's handwritten notes on the situation in France and her plans Suite Francaise, taken from her notebooks. Appendix II is written correspondence 1936-1945 from Irene, her husband and various friends. The insight into the horrors of war was astounding especially the notes that Irene wrote on the day she was arrested and taken to a concentration camp. It is amazing that all this correspondence has survived all these years. The information after the unfinished novel is what made it a 5 star read for me.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4258 comments Mod
Read 2009; WWII story of the occupation of France. Unfinished because the author was sent to a concentration camp.


message 4: by Amanda (last edited Mar 06, 2021 03:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amanda Dawn | 1243 comments I also loved this one and gave it 4 stars. It’s already been summarized well here, and many of the points I felt were already made, but to add a few comments I thought while reading:

-The fact that she had planned the final books to be called “battle” and “peace” and put question marks beside them both really hit me in the feelings, because she was right that these things came to pass but she wouldn’t survive to find out herself.

-The scene with the orphans…that was a lot. But really did get at the chaos that spreads in war and occupation.

-The bit with the father’s last wishes hit me in the heartstrings too.

-The class barrier issues in part 2 with the rich lady asking the townspeople to contribute more, her public outreach for charity but her secret disgust for them- very well done. Ditto to the comment above about the interactions between the billeting Germans and the occupied French.

This was a great book, and I’m so thrilled her daughter was able to save it, but so sad she didn’t live to finish it. The realism of her writing this while it was happening is just incredible.


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