Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Suite Francaise

byIrene Nemirovsky

Kobo ebook | March 18, 2009

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Suite Française is both a brilliant novel of wartime and an extraordinary historical document. An unmatched evocation of the exodus from Paris after the German invasion of 1940, and of life under the Nazi occupation, it was written by the esteemed French novelist Irène Némirovsky as events unfolded around her. This haunting masterpiece has been hailed by European critics as a War and Peacefor the Second World War.

Though she conceived the book as a five-part work (based on the form of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony), Irène Némirovsky was able to write only the first two parts, Storm in June and Dolce, before she was arrested in July 1942. She died in Auschwitz the following month. The manuscript was saved by her young daughter Denise; it was only decades later that Denise learned that what she had imagined was her mother’s journal was in fact an invaluable work of art.

Storm in June takes place in the tumult of the evacuation from Paris in 1940, just before the arrival of the invading German army. It moves vividly between different levels of society–from the wealthy Péricand family, whose servants pack up their possessions for them, to a group of orphans from the 16th arrondissementescaping in a military truck. Némirovsky’s immense canvas includes deserting soldiers and terrified secretaries, cynical bank directors and hapless priests, egotistical writers and hardscrabble prostitutes–all thrown together in a chaotic attempt to escape the capital. Moving between them chapter by chapter, this thrilling novel describes a journey hampered and in some cases abandoned because of confusion, shelling, rumour, lack of supplies, bad luck and ordinary human weakness. Cars break down or are stolen; relatives are forgotten; friends are divided; but there are also moments of love and charity. Throughout, whether depicting saintly forbearance or the basest selfishness, Storm in June neither sweetens nor demonizes its characters; unsentimentally, with stunning perceptiveness, Némirovsky shows the complexities that mean no-one is simply a hero or villain.

The second volume, Dolce, is set in the German-occupied village of Bussy. Again, Némirovsky switches seamlessly between social strata, from tenant farmers to the local aristocracy. The focus, however, is on the delicate, secret love affair between a German soldier and the French woman in whose house he has been billeted; the passion, doubts and deceits of their burgeoning relationship echo the complex mixture of hostility and acceptance felt by the occupied community as a whole. Némirovsky is amazingly sensitive in her depiction of changing, often contradictory emotions, but her attention to the personal is matched by her sharp-eyed discussion of small-town life and the politics of occupation. In this myth-dissolving book, the French villagers see the Germans as oppressive warriors, but also as handsome young men, and occupation does nothing to remedy the condescension and envy that bedevil relations between rich and poor.

Quite apart from the astonishing story of its survival, Suite Française is a novel of genius and lasting artistic value. Subtle, often fiercely ironic, and deeply compassionate, it is both a piercing record of its time and a humane, profoundly moving novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

Heather's Review

Imagine you are living your life almost as you have always lived it, affected only by the reality that some of your country's young men have been called to serve in a war that is happening not all that far from your borders. Imagine then that the unthinkable happens and you learn that in a few short hours the enemy will be on your do...

see all heather's picks
Title:Suite FrancaiseFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:March 18, 2009Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307371204

ISBN - 13:9780307371201

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Slow start but picks up This book started slow but I eventually got immersed. I find it particularly interesting that the book was never actually finished as the author intended it to be
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Suite Francaise Beautiful story with unforgettable characters and stories.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating A well written, beautiful story with unforgettable characters.
Date published: 2017-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great beautiful story, well written
Date published: 2017-07-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Slow, Slow, Slow Very slow start and not much pick up from there on in.
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Boring I am usually the type who has to finish a book no matter how long or boring it may be.....this one was just beyond boring and i couldn't finish it! Too many characters, and story goes no where. Some people's reviews say that it picks up later on but i just couldn't invest any more time for it. I'm surprised that so many people gave it rave reviews.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful prose I highly recommend this book - it's been several years since I read it, but when I remember back to when I was reading it, I almost re-experience the depth of emotions that it evoked. Writing about war well is undoubtedly difficult, particularly as experiences of war and conflict are so diverse and differentiated, which this book captures well.
Date published: 2015-01-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Suite Francaise It was off to a slow start, but picked up! :)
Date published: 2014-11-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was o.k. This is an unfinished novel in two parts (originally meant to be in 5 parts), written by a Russian woman of Jewish background, who had been living in France as a Catholic for a number of years. Nemirovsky was killed in Auschwitz in 1942 before she could finish the book. The novel focuses on regular people in France during WWII. In the first part of the book, people are being evacuated from Paris. They later return, only to have to share their homes with German soldiers. The book was o.k., but I really only found one small storyline particularly interesting... really one character. There were a lot of characters, but because the book wasn't holding my attention, I couldn't really keep them straight. The only reason it is getting 3 stars is for that one storyline. There was a note at the end of the book about Nemirovsky's own life, which to be honest, I found more interesting than most of the rest of the book.
Date published: 2012-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A definite must read! We're reading this as part of our book club. I went on 7 day Cruise and was surprised that I couldn't put it down. Totally would recommend. I wish there was more to tell us the outcome of all families mentioned. After I read the online summary, I realize that if the author hadn't died there was suppose to be more. Can't wait for book club.
Date published: 2011-01-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mixed Feelings It wasn't great for me. Although Suite Francaise is highly acclaimed and one of Heather's Picks (which I normally love) it feel short in my opinion. The good: I liked how it showed the experience of a variety of French people during WW2 from different social levels. Many books only focus on the tragedies of persecuted peoples or soliders, but this novel tells stories of average French citizens and their experiences up to and during the German occupation. The bad: I found it hard to read as it was long and the characters have very little to do with each other. It felt like a rough draft of a novel and I wonder how much would have been changed/edited if Nemirovsky would have survived the war.
Date published: 2009-06-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Lengthy I found this book just ok. I felt it to be too disjointed and I waited for all of the character plots to converge at some point. That time never came and I left this one thinking "I am glad that is over!"
Date published: 2009-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing All I can say is that this book is amazing. I would describe it more, but there aren't enough words good enough in the English language to tell you how great this books was. I loved it!
Date published: 2008-12-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Suite Francaise "Suite Francaise" is a novel where the history of the author writing the book is more riveting then the book itself. I did like "Suite Francaise" and it has changed the way I think people react during war. Irene Nemirovsky's book starts off with part one called "Storm in June". “Storm in June” takes place in Paris in 1940 as the Germans are marching in and the French are running away. It follows a number of different classes of families and people and how they react to their situation. The second part of the book called "Dolce" is about a village in France that is occupied by the Germans and how it affects the people. It was difficult to get strongly attached to any of the characters; I believe I was more attached to the author's own personal story. I loved looking at the small writing on the inside of the book and trying to imagine Irene Nemirovsky writing this book in a concentration camp. Her daughters escaped taking the book with them not knowing that what they carried was not a diary, but a novel. It took many years for one of the daughters to realize that what she had was a treasure. Irene Nemirovsky never survived the war, but her writing did. The book is not deeply moving or riveting, but it is a "goodread".
Date published: 2008-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Slow start, but it picks up I read Suite Francaise as part of an online book club I am in. And I'll openly admit that this is one of the few books that I changed my mind about halfway through. When I started reading it, I was sure that the entire book would be a chore to finish and that I would only be finishing it for the club instead of for me. But after about 75 pages, I was completely immersed in the world of France in WWII. This book has two sections: "Storm in June" and "Dolce". "Storm in June" follows many sets of characters and sometimes it is difficult to keep all of them straight. On top of that, not many of the characters appear to be likeable on first impression. However, after you take the time to get to know them, and they go through the process of evacuating Paris because the Germans are coming, there is a transformative element to their lives that is fascinating and sucked me right in. The second section, "Dolce," sticks more to a smaller cast and follows the German occupation of a small area of Paris. It is fascinating to see the soldiers developed in such a three-dimensional way and to see the overlapping characteristics of the Germans and the French. I found that this section dragged a bit more than the first section, but perhaps that is the feeling the author intended -- a slowdown after such a rush during evacuation time. After these two sections, there are also two quite length appendices. You see, the author did not get a chance to finish the book because she was taken to a concentration camp and passed away there. The appendices include her notes on what the final two sections of the book were intended to include as well as her correspondence pre-capture and her husband's frantic letters to various people after she has been captured. It was heartbreaking to read the correspondence, knowing that she would not be returning. I can only imagine how great the book would have been, had she had the opportunity to finish it.
Date published: 2008-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful read A beautifully written novel - poignant and real, you follow the stories of the characters as if being carried along beside them through their lives. A true shame that she was unable to finish the rest of her novels!
Date published: 2008-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Capturing human nature This is a remarkable story of war, made all the more extraordinary by the fact that the author herself was living in the midst of the turmoil that was the WWII. Every time she introduces a new character, you’re left wondering whether this was someone she met on the street during those turbulent times. Yet, despite living the events of her novel, she manages to maintain an objective view and captures with an almost cruel clarity human nature as brought out by the war.
Date published: 2007-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Extraordinary Novel with an Equally Extraordinary Provenance Imagine you are living your life almost as you have always lived it, affected only by the reality that some of your country's young men have been called to serve in a war that is happening not all that far from your borders. Imagine then that the unthinkable happens and you learn that in a few short hours the enemy will be on your door step, fully intent on occupying your beloved city. You must evacuate - flee into the countryside with the few things you can carry in a desperate attempt to save your life and the lives of your loved ones. This isn't a story about Iraq - this is a story which begins in 1940 when Paris falls to the Germans. Suite Francaise is an extraordinary novel, with an equally extraordinary provenance. It was written by Irene Nemirovsky, a Russian émigré who achieved early acclaim as a young novelist in her adopted country. Having fled Russia with her parents to avoid the Russian Revolution, she is once again forced to flee when the Germans reach the outskirts of Paris. Along with so many Parisians, Nemirovsky, her husband and two daughters sought safety in the countryside. She began writing Suite Francaise during this period and continued to write until she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz where she died. The manuscript, which is Suite Francaise, was saved by her young daughter Denise who barely escaped arrest and carted her only link to her mother - a suitcase filled with writing - through the endless series of moves she was forced to make to evade capture and certain death. It took almost six decades for Denise to have the courage to open the suitcase and read her mother's words. In 2004, Editions Denoel finally published this exquisite novel where it was acclaimed to have "the kind of intimacy found in the diary of Anne Frank." Suite Francaise is filled with characters so memorable, so real, and so human, you can at once feel what it was like to live through this soul-destroying period. Haughty aristocrats beg for food and petrol from those who, a few weeks earlier, they wouldn't stoop to have as house servants; true patriots find themselves somehow attracted to, and having affairs with, German soldiers; Jews are hunted out for no reason other than that they are Jewish; and more than a few incredible souls demonstrate the kind of bravery and moral righteousness which allows us to have hope for the future of humankind.
Date published: 2007-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing This is the most amazing read, a must have! If you are going to read a book this summer, start with this one. The author makes you feel as though you are living in the war, totally awesome!
Date published: 2007-06-06