In 1941, Irene Nemirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France.
Nemirovsky's death in Auschwitz in 1942 prevented her from seeing the day, sixty-five years later, that the existing two sections of her planned novel sequence, Suite Francaise, would be rediscovered and hailed as a masterpiece.
Set during the year that France fell to the Nazis, Suite Francaise falls into two parts.
The first is a brilliant depiction of a group of Parisians as they flee the Nazi invasion; the second follows the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation.
Suite Francaise is a novel that teems with wonderful characters struggling with the new regime.
However, amidst the mess of defeat, and all the hypocrisy and compromise, there is hope.
True nobility and love exist, but often in surprising places.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 30/09/2006
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780099488781
- Paperback from £7.65
- CD-Audio from £13.75
Showing 1 - 5 of 13 reviews.
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Review by herschelian
Friends gave me a copy of “Suite Française” by Irène Némirovsky as a birthday present, and I read it this week. (Curiously, my mother and my sister had each been given copies of the same book for their birthdays.)It is not a complete book, the author, a Russian Jewess living in France, who had already written several acclaimed novels started writing it in 1941. She intended the finished book to be in five parts, like an orchestral suite of music, but was seized by the Nazis and died in Auschwitz in late 1942, having written only two of the five parts. These two parts, together with her copious notes on what she was writing and her planning for the remaining three parts of the book, miraculously survived in a small suitcase which her two small daughters had with them when they fled the Nazis and went into hiding. As adult women, Iréne Nèmirovsky’s daughters decided to transcribe what they had thought was her daily journal, and discovered that it was a book, or part of a book. “Suite Française” is a collection of the two parts she had written, all her notes, letters between herself and her publishers and friends about her books, and then the frantic correspondence between her husband Michael Epstein and anyone of influence in occupied France whom he thought could save his wife after she had been arrested.Her writing is exceptional, light, delicate and intimate. She conveys the horrors of the Nazi invasion of Paris so well that you live through the nightmare and the panic as you read.Her account of rural life under the German occupation is superb; she views everything and everyone with an unsentimental clarity. It is not too exaggerated to say I found her writing on a par with Flaubert. What a terrible loss to French literature.I am quite unable to do justice to this book in a few words, suffice to say I thought it was simply wonderful, and urge everyone to read it, particularly teenagers. It is a beautiful and chilling reminder of what happened in the mid 20th Century, and what we must guard against ever happening again
Review by murraymint11
Had a certain Tolstoy feel to the writing and structure. I found it hard to keep track of all the different characters throughout the book - I wonder whether this was because the names were French? I preferred part 1; I could picture the scenes of panic and confusion during the flight from Paris very easily. Part 2 didn't engage me as much.
Review by littlebookworm
This book contains a snapshot of French history that I think is excellent. I wasn't there, so I can't say how accurate it is, but it resonates within me as correct, as human, as important. The author was there, and surely she knew. Little episodes bind everything together better than one long story, and one can only imagine how tightly this novel would have been woven if the author had lived to complete it. It speaks of a society and shows how human, and at times how inhuman, the soldiers on both sides of the war were. The author's fate speaks of one of these sides, even as she portrays the ordinary man serving in the German army.The author's contempt for aristocracy is perhaps the most light-hearted segment of the book; each aristocrat is pathetic and silly in his or her own way, and we are made to feel very strongly for the "common" people. She also deftly insinuates that there is no glory in war, while all of her characters glorify it. Really, this novel is brilliantly done. It is a fascinating, multi-layered work, and it should be read, even incomplete as it is.
Review by riverwillow
This is one of the most powerful and moving books I have ever read. This is a book in two parts, the first dealing with a disparate group of Parisians as they flee Paris following the fall of France in 1941, the second part following life in and around a small village in rural France under occupation. Nemirovsky's characters are vividly drawn and complex as they try to come to terms with their changing situation and her greatness as a writer lies in her detachment, her German characters are just as vividly drawn and compelling as her French characters. The book depicts war and how it changes everyone, oppressed and oppressor, for good or evil.
Review by eesti23
Suite Francaise is the partial story of France and its occupants when the Germans arrived during WW2. The story is unfinished as the author herself was sent to Auschwitz by the Germans. However the story that we are provided with, which is split into two parts, is amazing and draws you right in. From the Parisians fleeing the German invasion to the relationships between the French village members and the occupying German soldiers.
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