In 1941, Irene Nemirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through, not in terms of battles and politicians, but by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. She did not live to see her ambition fulfilled, or to know that sixty-five years later, "Suite Francaise" would be published for the first time, and hailed as a masterpiece. Set during a year that begins with France's fall to the Nazis in June 1940 and ends with Germany turning its attention to Russia, "Suite Francaise" falls into two parts. The first is a brilliant depiction of a group of Parisians as they flee the Nazi invasion and make their way through the chaos of France; the second follows the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation who find themselves thrown together in ways they never expected. Nemirovsky's brilliance as a writer lay in her portrayal of people, and this is a novel that teems with wonderful characters, each more vivid than the next. Haughty aristocrats, bourgeois bankers and snobbish aesthetes rub shoulders with uncouth workers and bolshy farmers. Women variously resist or succumb to the charms of German soldiers. 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. Irene Nemirovsky conceived of "Suite Francaise" as a four- or five-part novel. It was to be a symphony - her War and Peace. Although only two sections were finished before her tragic death, they form a book that is beautifully complete in itself, and awe-inspiring in its understanding of humanity.
I read this as it was a recommendation from my daughter and she kindly passed this copy onto me once she had finished with it. I am so glad that she did so because it is such a moving account of the experiences of the everyday lives of French citizens during the Second World War and particularly during the German occupation.
For me this story is particularly poignant because although the author started to write this novel in 1941 she never wrote beyond the first two sections as she died whilst a prisoner of war at Auschwitz. Some sixty five years later the manuscript was rediscovered by Irene Nemirovsky’s daughter and published to receive critical acclaim. Her daughter had always thought it was her mother’s diary that she kept as a memento and it was not until she decided to read the manuscript that she realised it was actually a novel.
The intention had been to write a five part epic saga, however it still works in its incomplete form with just the two sections ‘Storm in June’ and ‘Sweet’.
It is set during the year that France fell to the Germans, the ‘Storm in June set in Paris as the inhabitants flee the city. As transport and distribution collapse while the Germans bomb Paris, the narrative follows several groups of characters as they try to escape the chaos. The second part, ‘Sweet’ takes us to rural France where the inhabitants of a small village are endeavouring to learn to live with the new regime, that has taken over everything they know and love. Both parts have an eclectic cast of characters that despite the disarray all around them manage to find hope and love in the most unexpected places. The novel ends after a scene in which the Germans are celebrating the first anniversary of the occupation of Paris. A bittersweet celebration, the title of ‘ Dolce’ ‘Sweet’ is an ironic but truthful title as bitter emotions bubble away under the surface of this part of the novel. It is interesting that part three, for which notes were written was to be a far more traumatic sequel.
It is a tragedy that Irene Nemirovsky never got to finish this emotional novel of humanity under stress, which I found a compelling read.
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Released 6 yrs ago (9/5/2011 UTC) at By Hand, Friend -- Controlled Releases
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Passed on to a friend in Capodimonte.
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