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Prantsuse süit PDF, ePub eBook Juudi päritolu prantsuse kirjandusklassiku Irčne Némirovsky „Prantsuse süit” on üks esimesi ilukirjanduslikke teoseid Teisest maailmasõjast. Esimest korda alles 2004. aastal trükis ilmunud romaan jutustab tõetruult Prantsusmaa lüüasaamisest ja eelkõige selle mõjust prantslaste eludele.

30 review for Prantsuse süit

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    A masterpiece. And this is the rough draft. I've spent the last day trying to decide if I loved this book because I'm sentimental. The author, Irene Nemirovsky, was a Russian Jew who wrote this while living in occupied France. A respected author, she had married Micheal Epstein who had also fled Russia when the Bolsheviks revolted. They had sincerely adopted France as their home country, converted to Catholicism and were the parents of two daughters. She began writing this novel while simultaneou A masterpiece. And this is the rough draft. I've spent the last day trying to decide if I loved this book because I'm sentimental. The author, Irene Nemirovsky, was a Russian Jew who wrote this while living in occupied France. A respected author, she had married Micheal Epstein who had also fled Russia when the Bolsheviks revolted. They had sincerely adopted France as their home country, converted to Catholicism and were the parents of two daughters. She began writing this novel while simultaneously experiencing it. She and her family had lived in Paris but had fled when German troops invaded the city. While most of the country was occupied, she moved to a French village and tried to survive amidst the new harsh laws concerning anyone of Jewish decent. She could no longer publish her works, could not cash checks, could not travel freely. Her life and freedom, as well as those of her husband and daughters were threatened daily. She had every excuse to be as frightened and as hysteric as anyone. Yet, she managed to write an unbelievably candid look at Frenchmen in their hour of need. Her intention was to write a five part novella in the idea of a musical symphony much like Beethoven's Fifth examining the behavior of people from different classes of society. She succeeded in writing two of the five parts: Storm in June and Dolce. Storm in June begins as rumors of a German invasion into Paris reach a frenzied level and characters decide whether or not evacuate their homes. The attitude, priorities and expectations vary greatly between the elite and working class. Desperation brings out the very worst in most, but not all. Food, gas, shelter - the basic needs of any person, become scarce and the desire to survive seems to super cede any desire to help a neighbor. Nemirovsky is an expert at exposing this without focusing on the misery. Instead, in her own words, she shows "the prosperity that contrasts with it. . . one word for misery, ten for egotism, cowardice, closing ranks, crime. But it's true that it's this very atmosphere I'm breathing. It is easy to imagine it: the obsession with food." Writing about the contrast is very effective. `What impresses me more is that Nemirovsky was part of this aristocrat class. She was privileged. To have the ability to understand at all the confusion and need of those without shows great compassion, I think. The second part of the novel, Dolce, is quite different. Rather than following several loosely related characters, she focuses on a small village adjusting to life with the German troop based there. Most of the upper class members of the village, farmers, land owners etc., had to house the officers of the German army at the same time their husbands, sons, and brothers were being held as prisoners of war someplace else. Nemirovsky manages to weave in a few of the characters from Storm into the story but the overall pace and feeling is much slower and calmer (ah....dolce!) The slower tempo and close proximity force many of the French to look at the Germans as humans rather than simply soldiers. Boredom resulting from the restrictions placed on the villagers, jealousy and greed as supplies and food are scarce for many cause tensions to run high. The most interesting part of this story to me was the relationship between Lucille and the German officer staying at their chateau all the while under the persecution of an unforgiving and pompous mother-in-law. How disappointing when this story ended and there was no more. Following the two stories are the handwritten notes written by the author. Plans for the third part to be titled "Captivity" were outlined and different story lines attempted. The realization that this was all a rough draft boggles my mind. They seem so....done and flawless. What a loss. After the appendix showing Nemirovsky's plans for the novel is another with the letters recovered from her and her family, acquaintances, editors etc. during this time period. The tone in these letters is so different from the tone in her notes for the novel. It's as if she was somehow push away her fear and trepidation while writing and thinking. Her personal correspondence, however, reveals that she was very aware of the danger facing her. Her last letter is written to her husband as she is being taken to a concentration camp. Following letters show the desperation of her husband, trying to find out where she has been taken and how she can be saved. then those stop as he is arrested and also taken to a concentration camp. They were both killed at Auschwitz. Her daughters were hid by a close friend for years until the war was over. Her eldest daughter carried around this manuscript in a suitcase wherever they traveled as a link to her mother and finally had it published and translated sixty years later. I don't think I loved this just because I am sentimental although I love it for that very reason. Independent of the author's tragic parallel story is the creation of something unique and special. It is as if someone was holding a mirror up to the French during the war but this mirror is alluring and beautiful, so much so that you can't help but pick it up and just gaze. But it's more than just a look at the French people during a specific period of time. It is also a timeless portrait of humanity. Highly, highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Unless you’re reading a memoir or autobiography, you usually aren’t conscious of an author’s presence in a book. I’m not talking about style. Obviously, there are times you can tell the provenance of a book, and know its creator, by skimming a few paragraphs. Short, punchy sentences, hyper-masculinity, and casual misogyny mean I’m reading Hemingway; if I can’t understand what I’m reading, it’s because I’m trying Faulkner; and if I’ve fallen asleep, I know I’ve got something by Melville in my han Unless you’re reading a memoir or autobiography, you usually aren’t conscious of an author’s presence in a book. I’m not talking about style. Obviously, there are times you can tell the provenance of a book, and know its creator, by skimming a few paragraphs. Short, punchy sentences, hyper-masculinity, and casual misogyny mean I’m reading Hemingway; if I can’t understand what I’m reading, it’s because I’m trying Faulkner; and if I’ve fallen asleep, I know I’ve got something by Melville in my hands. Beyond stylistic fingerprints, though, it’s rare that you are actually thinking about an author as you read. Usually, the author remains on the back flap as an airbrushed photograph and a short paragraph about a pet dog named Ulysses and a condo in New York. Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Francaise is different. Her life – and her death – haunt every single page, making an entirely objective literary critique (if such a thing even exists) next to impossible. Némirovsky was a successful writer living in Paris when the Germans invaded France in 1940. The French, despite preparing for a German attack since 1918, quickly fell apart. The Germans advanced through the Ardennes, outflanked the Maginot Line, and perhaps took advantage of a shaky French psyche, which had suffered four years of occupation during World War I, and spent the intervening decades in fear of the Teutonic forces on their frontier. In any event, France soon capitulated. Némirovsky was a convert to Roman Catholicism. However, under German racial laws, she was Jewish. She moved to the countryside where she began the truncated work today known as Suite Francaise. Némirovsky actually planned a total of five novels, designed to mirror a musical suite, which would total approximately 1,000 pages. She churned out drafts of the first two novels, Storm in June and Dolce, and had outlined a third novel, Captivity, before her arrest in 1942. Némirovsky was taken to Auschwitz, where she died. Fifty years later, her novels came to light. With that as its background, Suite Francaise deflects any attempts at normal literary judgment. This is not a work of fiction in which the author had the ability to plan, plot and polish a finished novel; rather, the two “completed” books, essentially unrevised, are parts of an unfinished whole. Moreover, they were written under desperate circumstances about those same desperate circumstances. Even as you read about the mortal danger facing Némirovsky’s characters, you are forced to recall the noose tightening around her own neck. Had it been finished, Suite Francaise would have provided an epic look at France under the Nazi boot-heel. As it exists, it is a fleeting, tantalizing glimpse at a marvelous talent. Storm in June, the first book, is the more refined, vibrant, and fulfilling of the two completed sections of Suite Francaise. The story involves four separate groups of characters, forced to flee Paris ahead of the oncoming German Army. Though Némirovsky has drawn some connections among these four groups (and more connections likely would’ve been fleshed out), they mainly travel their separate roads. The first group of characters are the Michaud’s. Maurice and Jeanne Michaud are smalltime employees at a bank run by the unlikeable Monsieur Corbin. The Michaud’s son, Jean-Marie, is a soldier in the French Army. The Michaud’s, being of modest means, are unable to leave Paris; they spend most of the story worrying about their son. Némirovsky’s characters are separated by class: the higher the class, the lower the character. As such, the Michaud’s are clearly Némirovsky’s favorites: noble and humble and good. However, due to those simplified traits, they are also the least interesting storyline. The next character group is the Péricand family. The Péricand’s are of a higher social class, and they attempt to leave Paris for Nimes, where they own property. Though they have money, they also have a social conscious. One of the Péricand children, Philippe, is a priest in charge of the wellbeing of a party of orphans (unfortunately for Philippe, the orphans are straight out of The Lord of the Flies). Another of the Péricand brood, young Hubert, deserts his family on the road to join the army, where he inevitably learns that war is hell, there is no glory, etc., etc. The final two storylines belong to Gabriel Corte, a famous writer, and Charles Langelet, a rich old collector of porcelain. Corte heads to Vichy with his mistress, while Langelet makes for Loire. These two are of the upper crust of French society, and Némirovsky clearly despises them. Indeed, Suite Francaise is laced with her elegantly controlled sense of outrage and betrayal. Némirovsky believed that France had forsaken her, and she clearly uses Suite Francaise to lay blame. Yet despite the poison she heaps onto them, Corte and Langelet are fascinating protagonists. They are not heroic or good in any sense; but still, they are human, and in their moment-by-moment rationalizations, never achieve villainy. (However, there is a scene when Corte reaches the Grand Hotel at the end of his journey that approached mustache-twirling meanness. In this scene, Corte drinks from a chilled glass and eats a dish of olives and observes a gathering of his social peers who, like him, have escaped the dirty lower classes on the crowded roads from Paris. This passage ends with Corte and a playwright discussing their work, “without a thought for the rest of the world”). Even Némirovsky, in her notes, realized that parts of Storm in June were overly melodramatic. (She picked out a scene with Philippe and the orphans for possible rewriting). There was also an instance where Némirovsky’s dislike for a certain character spilled over into a macabre death that felt more appropriate in a Final Destination movie. Still, the cross-cutting between characters, highlighting the differences in class and personality, made for a satisfying story. Némirovsky also achieves a beautiful, vivid sense of the turnover from peace to war: Day was breaking. A silvery blue light slid over the cobblestones, over the parapets along the quayside, over the towers of Notre-Dame. Bags of sand were piled halfway up all the important monuments, encircling Carpeaux’s dancers on the façade of the Opera House, silencing the Marseillaise on the Arc de Triomphe… [A]t some distance, great guns were firing; they drew nearer, and every window shuddered in reply. In hot rooms with blacked-out windows, children were born, and their cries made the women forget the sound of sirens and war. To the dying, the barrage of gunfire seemed far away, without any meaning whatsoever, just one more element in that vague, menacing whisper that washes over those on the brink of death. Children slept peacefully, held tight against their mothers’ sides, their lips making sucking noises, like little lambs. Street sellers’ carts lay abandoned, full of fresh flowers. Dolce does not come near to matching the craft of Storm in June. It takes place in the village of Bussy, which has been occupied by the Germans. The main characters in Dolce are two women, Lucille and Madeleine. Lucille is married to a French prisoner-of-war. Before the surrender, her husband had been a cruel, philandering man, and Lucille does not quite mourn his absence. This fact is noted by her mother-in-law, who lives with Lucille. Madeleine is also in an unhappy marriage. Her husband is the simple farmer Benoit, a soldier who escaped German captivity and hungers to resist the invaders. The tie binding Lucille and Madeleine, other than friendship, is their odd preoccupation with the German occupants of their respective homes. Both women are indifferent towards their French husbands; and both women harbor a secret lust for the gray-uniformed Aryan soldier living with them. Certainly this is a bit transgressive. And maybe, with some work, there might have been a story here. But nothing really comes of this. Two-thirds of Dolce is exhaustingly repetitive, and is spent mostly with Lucille nurturing a no-touch flirtation with Bruno von Falk, her uninvited German guest. Only at the end of Dolce is there is hint of action, when Benoit kills a soldier and goes into hiding. This event, however, is framed as a sideshow to Lucille’s uncertain attraction to Bruno. Thus, an event that could have been milked for drama, remains limp and inert. Indeed, the whole of the German occupation seems relatively benign. The Germans may threaten to shoot people, but they never do. The stakes in Dolce are low, and remain low, until the Germans pack up and leave. (While I did not quite enjoy Dolce, I did find it amazing that Némirovsky could conjure such humanity for her German characters. They are not monsters, just vaguely menacing foreigners who were often harmless, polite, and lovers of good music. Most of Némirovsky’s scorn is reserved for her own people). The power of Suite Francaise comes as much from its circumstances as its content. I couldn’t read a single sentence without imagining Némirovsky writing that sentence while waiting for black-coated, jackboot-wearing thugs to knock on her door. In the appendix to this edition to Suite Francaise, you can see some of the original pages to her manuscript, the notes she wrote to herself, and letters she wrote to others. It shows an author of great talent and ambition, growing increasingly worried about her fate, turning to her writing as a kind of catharsis. Fifty million people died in World War II. Approximately 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Of that number, some 77,000 came from France. Némirovsky was one of those 77,000. It is hard for me to imagine 77,000 of anything, much less 6 million or 50 million. The size of the numbers anesthetize the mind. In order to recognize a tragedy, you have to look to the individual. In that sense, the partly-completed Suite Francaise is a poignant symbol of human catastrophe of World War II. Its unfinished pages reflect somberly on an unfinished life.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Tour de force! What a breathtaking achievement - this novel is incredible! The story of how it was written is a dramatic witness account of the surreal world of France occupied by the Wehrmacht from 1940 on. Irène Némirovsky, of Jewish origin, wrote it while expecting to be deported to the East, and she had barely finished it when she was arrested in July 1942. She was murdered in Auschwitz, but her children survived, hidden until the end of the war. And with them, moving from one hiding place t Tour de force! What a breathtaking achievement - this novel is incredible! The story of how it was written is a dramatic witness account of the surreal world of France occupied by the Wehrmacht from 1940 on. Irène Némirovsky, of Jewish origin, wrote it while expecting to be deported to the East, and she had barely finished it when she was arrested in July 1942. She was murdered in Auschwitz, but her children survived, hidden until the end of the war. And with them, moving from one hiding place to the next, they brought this manuscript. That alone makes it a special document, and I started reading it mainly because the circumstances of its creation fascinated me - in a heartbreaking way. The novel itself is of unique brilliance, of acute observation, a prelude to the darkest hours in the Second World War, a study of humanity living through a universal stress test, not knowing that the worst is still ahead. A diverse collection of characters from different walks of life are thrown into uncertainty and confusion when Germany invades France. In a hectic crowd they leave Paris to escape, only to find themselves in various difficult situations as the long trail of refugees fill up the small villages and towns in the countryside. Depending on social status and personality, they all see the occupation from their own specific perspective, and Némirovsky paints human weakness and vanity in tragicomical truthfulness. When a woman complains about all stores being empty, and nothing left for them to purchase, her husband laughs and says he has found a store fully equipped. -A piano shop! But underneath their fatalistic sense of humour, the fleeing people learn that the Christian charity they had adapted in better times doesn't count much when they feel existentially threatened: "Il lui fallait nourrir et abriter ses petits. Le reste ne comptait plus." As time goes by, the French arrange themselves around the dominance of the German soldiers. They get used to the signs forbidding everything - "a peine de mort", they get used to the forced accommodation of soldiers in their homes, to the secrecy and danger of speaking their minds, to anxiously waiting for sons and husbands to come back. They get used to the presence of the occupying force, and even start seeing some of the soldiers as human beings. There are dilemmas and complications as young soldiers and women fall in love on an individual level but reject each other as members of different community systems: "Je hais cet esprit communautaire dont on nous rebat les oreilles. Les Allemands, les Francais, les gaullistes s'entendent tous sur un point: il faut vivre, penser, aimer avec les autres, en fonction d'un État, d'un pays, d'un parti. Oh mon Dieu! je ne veux pas. Je suis une pauvre femme inutile; je ne sais rien mais je veux être libre!" In the end, the forces of their communities are stronger than individual feelings, however, and the characters are all driven by the maelstrom of war to commit to the dogma of their unit of power. The novel ends with the departure of the German soldiers who are ordered to move to the Eastern front, and their life in France seems almost idyllic with hindsight, knowing what awaits them. So the war moves to the East, and one of its victims is the author of this unbelievable, yet incredibly realistic account of France under the yoke of German occupation. Must-Read!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lord Beardsley

    This book jolted me. It's rare when I read a book literally from cover to cover...and close it nearly in tears. This was witten as France was being occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War, thus, this may well be the first fictional account of World War Two as it was happening. Needless to say, this is an immensely important book and in my opinion should be required reading in history classes. This is an unfinished work by a Russian-French author who died in Auschwitz before she could c This book jolted me. It's rare when I read a book literally from cover to cover...and close it nearly in tears. This was witten as France was being occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War, thus, this may well be the first fictional account of World War Two as it was happening. Needless to say, this is an immensely important book and in my opinion should be required reading in history classes. This is an unfinished work by a Russian-French author who died in Auschwitz before she could complete what she was hoping would be a novel-opus written in the style of a piece of music. This is definately an ambitious and frustrating read. But the readers must take in mind that this is an incomplete draft. As a writer, I enjoyed reading something unfinished. It was wonderful to be able to crawl into someone's imaginative workings as they are happening with all the frayed bits left strung out. It helped me in assessing my own approach to the creative process and I think I'll be referring back to this novel time and again to get some pointers on plot devices and flow. As a story, this is flawed. If I was just giving points for the story itself I would only alot it three stars. The fourth is for the fact that the appendix's in the back as well as the forword to the French addition are utterly fascinating. This is a highly forgotten author and I'm looking forward to reading more of her work. It pains me that this was never completed. *On a side note, I experienced a strange realization while reading this by finding out that the suburb of Paris where my girlfriend's grandmother lives, Drancy, is the site of a former concentration camp.* This gives a fascinatingly detailed account of life during the French Occupation as it was happening through the eyes of a formerly (but that has never been known to stop Nazis) Jewish woman. She has a keen knack for expressing the human experience. The lives of those she describes are lives interrupted during war, whether it be French peasants or young, highly incompetent German soldiers in way over their heads. She described the young German soldiers with a tenderness and empathy I thought incredible. Thus, subverting their "power" by describing them as young boys caught up in something they have marginal understanding of. The most poignant scenes for me where those in which she described what happens to young people during wartime. How all the young French boys are away and the young girls secretly idolize their captors and their captors in turn court the young girls...after all they're still teenagers. That to me, was heart-breaking. Reading this, over sixty years after it was written and in another pseudo "war", makes me realize how useless the power displays of men playing king of the hill really are...especially when the lives of everyday people are involved.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    I picked this one up because it resembled a historical romance. (I believe the cover to be one of the most powerful and beautiful, & just o-so-right for this particular book that I could scream!) Then I found out what the tiny particles of pathos all seemed to portend: this was a posthumous work. Immediately the work becomes grounded--it easily turns into something more important, more adult, even more delicate. This is an incredible novel which may've easily been lost forever...! Yikes!! Pe I picked this one up because it resembled a historical romance. (I believe the cover to be one of the most powerful and beautiful, & just o-so-right for this particular book that I could scream!) Then I found out what the tiny particles of pathos all seemed to portend: this was a posthumous work. Immediately the work becomes grounded--it easily turns into something more important, more adult, even more delicate. This is an incredible novel which may've easily been lost forever...! Yikes!! Perhaps the writer's tragic background story is sadder than this--an unequal/unfinished take on the early years of the second World War in France. It is divided into two separate parts: "Storm in June" relates the mass exodus by those many different individuals leaving Paris--the puppetry of all the characters is what's so terrific in the novel (Miss Nemirovsky can pick out different people from different classes with such ease and art... like a stroll through the decks of the Titanic). But the second part, which DOES relate a romance between a Frenchwoman and (gasp!) a German soldier, makes the whole really, truly uneven (entitled "Dolce," that second part was often found to be more "Dull-ce"). Although I was truly stirred by the descriptions of the hot German soldier looking all masculine while still retaining the monster within, I kept asking myself: What happened to all the characters from the first part? That their fates were blurred away makes so much sense in a historical, even aesthetic, way. In all reality, many lives, like that of the writer herself, who died in a concentration camp a year or two later, were erased forever... just like that, many stories were left sadly unfinished. It would've been a grand treat to have read all of Irene Nemirovsky's proposed magnum opus (a gargantuan of more than 1000 pages!). Just because both parts do not mesh completely doesn't indicate that the book is not overfilled with symbols & thoughts of forewarning, sadness & doom.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tea Jovanović

    MUST READ! MUST READ! Wonderful unfinished novel by famous Jewish French author... Interesting story is behind publication of this novel... The manuscript stayed in a box for decades because the daughters of the author thought it is diary... but it was not... One of my favourite novels and I am proud that I was its Serbian editor... :) U Srbiji je knjigu objavila Laguna... predivna knjiga... veoma dirljiva...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    The story of the author and how the book came to be published so many years after her death is a much more compelling story than this, although if Nemirovsky had the chance to complete the book to her vision I may think differently. As it is, the book was well-done in its portrayal of the many facets of human nature that show themselves in times of crises. Nemirovsky shows a sympathy for basic human responses, even if those reactions are abhorrent to common values and sentiments. The book also po The story of the author and how the book came to be published so many years after her death is a much more compelling story than this, although if Nemirovsky had the chance to complete the book to her vision I may think differently. As it is, the book was well-done in its portrayal of the many facets of human nature that show themselves in times of crises. Nemirovsky shows a sympathy for basic human responses, even if those reactions are abhorrent to common values and sentiments. The book also portrayed a part of history, the German invasion and occupation of France, that I didn't know much about besides the hard facts - how people fled Paris only to be killed on the roads and villages by German bombs, the guilt of French people who chose to collaborate with the Germans in order to survive. Suprisingly, she did not discuss the experiences of Jews in France and the deeper fear they must have felt upon the German invasion, but perhaps that was for a later part of the book she didn't finish before being sent to a concentration camp herself. Still, even though I did enjoy the book, I did not find it engrossing in a way that kept me reading. I think this is because of a lack of plot. Each chapter was like a self-contained episode in the lives of certain characters. And while those episodes were interesting and entertaining, perhaps even meaningful, there was no drive to keep reading. The second half of the book, the Dolce volume, had more of a storyline that continued from chapter to chapter and had more of a pull. But I still can't say that it deserved a three-star review. Maybe two-and-a-half.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    Suite Francaise was a book that I wasn't sure about until I started to read it, and got swept up in the story, the characters, and Nemirovsky's merciless eye for human grace and ridiculousness, often both encapsulated in the same moments. The book covers the surrender of Paris, and the later occupation of a small town by the Germans, in two discrete sections, although a few characters bridge the gap. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enfo Suite Francaise was a book that I wasn't sure about until I started to read it, and got swept up in the story, the characters, and Nemirovsky's merciless eye for human grace and ridiculousness, often both encapsulated in the same moments. The book covers the surrender of Paris, and the later occupation of a small town by the Germans, in two discrete sections, although a few characters bridge the gap. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I'm not sure which is more eerie: that this is a posthumous novel, or that the author knew it would be a posthumous novel; that had it not been for her daughters who carried it around as a notebook, this novel would not have surfaced, or that the book gave a vivid snapshot of the exodus from Paris which mother and daughters were experiencing at that moment; that her husband was killed for inquiring about his missing famous-writer wife, or that her daughters were then hunted down by the same madm I'm not sure which is more eerie: that this is a posthumous novel, or that the author knew it would be a posthumous novel; that had it not been for her daughters who carried it around as a notebook, this novel would not have surfaced, or that the book gave a vivid snapshot of the exodus from Paris which mother and daughters were experiencing at that moment; that her husband was killed for inquiring about his missing famous-writer wife, or that her daughters were then hunted down by the same madmen; that the daughters lost both their parents, or that their own grandmother refused to take them in after they knocked at her door in desperation? I've read many war novels but this is the first I have seen really capture the immediacy of the despondency of exiles. The disheveled state of mind that comes with the refugee status. One minute you're the person you know, the next minute, you're someone even you don't recognize. It is the eve of the Nazi occupation of 1940. The book starts with a wealthy family who is fleeing to a second home in the country. There is the famous writer who fights to save his manuscripts. A middle class couple who fights to save their job but can't make it across the country because of the lack of transportation. Parked cars are everywhere, hotels and inns are filled with refugees, restaurants are closed because of lack of food or lack of paying patrons,people are begging for food and water, some sleeping in abandoned cars, some camping out on the road. Imagine a huge traffic jam of people who must walk to get anywhere and even then, might find that they're being stopped by a road block of soldiers who have sealed their territory from the enemy. The perils of war that Nemirovsky captures oh so well. The chaotic situation is captured through a slew of characters and an emphatic plot. Unfortunately, this was one book that was not completed: Nemirovsky began...by writing notes on the work in progress and thoughts inspired by the situation in France...She dreamed of a book of a thousand pages, constructed like a symphony...she took Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as a model. On 12 June 1942 she began to doubt she would be able to complete this huge endeavour. She had a premonition that she didn't have long to live. But she continued to work on her book, simultaneously writing notes. In her writing she denounced fear, cowardice, acceptance of humiliation, of persecution and massacre. She was alone. It was rare to find anyone in the literary and publishing worlds who did not choose to collaborate with the Nazis. Although the novel is divided into two parts that could have been novellas ("Storm in June and "Dolce"), they are connected with some of the same characters and the overarching theme of war and displacement, so it still feels like a novel. Knowing what happened after, it is interesting to note that the book is not about the evacuation of Jews, rather it is a novel about Parisians in general, wealthy and poor, fleeing German invasion, some even having to share their homes with German soldiers. At the time she was interned in the concentration camp (she was of Jewish heritage but also a Catholic) Irene was a famous writer. Nine novels. She was a literature student whose first book had been published in her mid twenties. But as we know now in reading about that period in history, none of this mattered. When she was taken away, her husband didn't know that at that time, to be arrested and deported meant death. So he wrote many letters inquiring about her whereabouts. Later, he too would be taken away and her young daughters would spend a lot of time hiding from the French police. The letters her husband wrote are included in the appendices, revealing the saddening situation. This is one book that you cannot read without reading the appendix. Irene's daughter, Elizabeth would later become an editor at a publishing house. Elizabeth's sister Densie would take the suitcase that contained the manuscripts, the same suitcase that had traveled with them from hiding place to hiding place, type it up, and entrust it to the archives and a publisher. Hence, the novel we get to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Seth T.

    Recognizing beforehand that this wouldn't be a complete story arc, I had to try to approach the book without any prejudice toward it for having a weak ending (i.e., no ending). Unfinished books can be interesting to read to view the storytelling process in the midst of its evolution, but are rarely satisfying as stories in their own right. Némirovsky's work here is perhaps more polished than a simple draft, but even her notes suggest that the finished chapters and two volumes that *were* publish Recognizing beforehand that this wouldn't be a complete story arc, I had to try to approach the book without any prejudice toward it for having a weak ending (i.e., no ending). Unfinished books can be interesting to read to view the storytelling process in the midst of its evolution, but are rarely satisfying as stories in their own right. Némirovsky's work here is perhaps more polished than a simple draft, but even her notes suggest that the finished chapters and two volumes that *were* published are not likely how they would appear in her final product. So then, what about what we are given? It's, well, pretty good. It's not riveting by any means. There is no climax to her first act ("Storm in June") and her second act plays out pretty softly (appropriately enough for a section entitled "Dolce"). While each segment picks up interest in later chapters, both start off at such a slowburn that many readers won't make it past a hundred pages. Character-wise, Némirovsky doesn't provide the reader with many sympathetic characters either. Not only are almost all the inhabitants of her story arrogant hypocrites, but they are almost universally uninteresting as well. The first book is a pile of vignettes describing the circumstances of several families and individuals as they flee Paris on the eve of its fall into German hands on 14 June 1940. The narrative is as disorganized and haphazard, perhaps, as was the exodus it chronicles. There are flourishes of course and moments of interest (notably a chapter written from the perspective of a cat in heat), but on the whole it functions better as documentary than as story. The second book is easily superior, but much slower paced. There are more sympathetic characters and much more time for introspection. In a way, book two ("Dolce") could function as some sort of Jane Austen work, only with Nazis and crap. Back to characters. Reading, Suite Française, I first thought that Némirovsky was an out-and-out misanthrope, despising all humanity, no matter its form or station. Gradually, I came to see that there is a certain class of person whom Némirovsky bears little ill will and seems to believe at least capable of being both genuine and rational. Those people seem to fit in the lower middle class and be young enough to still see beauty in the world (the Michaud couple are only in their early forties or so, and are an exception to the youthfulness qualification). Her sympathetic characters are the Michauds, Jean-Marie Michaud, Lucile, the young engaged couple fleeing from Paris on their wedding day, Bruno (the German soldier staying with Lucille's family), Madeleine (to some extent), and Hubert (after he rejects the hypocrisy and privilege of his class). I should note I really did appreciate Némirovsky's ability to describe the hypocrisies of her characters through the various perspectives of her other characters. This actually makes it a little more difficult to pin down the author's own feelings toward others. I'd be curious to read Némirovsky's other works to see how she paints the classes as a general rule, but if they're not more interesting books than Suite Française, I think I'll skip.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I really really wanted to love this book... Instead I'm having a hard time deciding what I really think about it, other than that I pushed through it to finish. WWII is a somber subject, no way around it and so, of course, the book is somber. But even somber subjects can be compelling and I had a hard time finding a reason to be compelled... There are two "books" within the cover and I feel like I need to review each quickly but separately. (perhaps this is part of my struggle - it felt almost lik I really really wanted to love this book... Instead I'm having a hard time deciding what I really think about it, other than that I pushed through it to finish. WWII is a somber subject, no way around it and so, of course, the book is somber. But even somber subjects can be compelling and I had a hard time finding a reason to be compelled... There are two "books" within the cover and I feel like I need to review each quickly but separately. (perhaps this is part of my struggle - it felt almost like a short story rather than a full novel) I struggled most with the first book which were stories about people (families, singles, employers and employees) fleeing Paris following the defeat of the French army by the Germans. The entire time I read I/it felt pointless - perhaps this was the point of the story, fleeing one danger into another, one tragedy into another, one potential death into a different death. The pointlessness of it all?? (Ok maybe it's not just somber, it's DARK) The second book followed a village occupied by the German troops. It was an insightful look into how occupation changed the relationships between the village residents AND how relationships form between occupier and occupied. This story, though once again with strains of hopelessness and pointlessness (at the end especially), had characters that were a little more sympathetic. They felt fleshed out and real, rather than just a caricature of a certain "type" of person. Two interesting things about the book, though. One is that the author was French and was living through occupation of France during WWII (this would explain the tone of the book!) She eventually was killed in Auschwitz. Second is that she meant to write a book in 5 parts but was only able to complete 2. So, the story is unfinished, the characters just created and the story just beginning to be told. I would have liked to read the rest of her creation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    I realise that left Suite Francaise on my shelves for too long. I bought it because it was a well-loved bestseller, but I delayed the read because I mistook it for a historical war-romance novel (I find myself in the minority when it comes to my opinions on the genre, e.g. my bad experience with The Nightingale). This book pleasantly surprised me. This is not an action book like so many others set in wartime France. There are no acts of bravery and no heroes here, no linear story line. The book I realise that left Suite Francaise on my shelves for too long. I bought it because it was a well-loved bestseller, but I delayed the read because I mistook it for a historical war-romance novel (I find myself in the minority when it comes to my opinions on the genre, e.g. my bad experience with The Nightingale). This book pleasantly surprised me. This is not an action book like so many others set in wartime France. There are no acts of bravery and no heroes here, no linear story line. The book is an album, a collection of portraits where the well-drawn characters happen to live in highly dangerous and volatile times. I loved the subtle, evocative prose and the quiet, introspective quality of the writing, which contrasts with the turmoil caused by the war. In the first part, the author vividly describes the chaos and the disorder of the Paris evacuation in the wake of France humiliating defeat. The second part is about a community living in a country village occupied by the Germans. The locals have reluctantly come to terms with their nation surrender, and now must endure and adjust to a foreign occupation. For me, this book captures the essence of the French in the 40s, with their traditions, values, social status prerogatives and quirks. The characters are not clichés or caricatures; they felt three-dimensional, real and genuine people. The author own story and her personal correspondence, which are included in the appendixes, were heart-breaking to read. The fact that her work was left incomplete because of her deportation and tragic death makes the novel even more poignant. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars. Fav. quotes: In the snow, Jeanne and Maurice Michaud waited their turn, leaning against each other like weary horses during a short pause in their journey. Lucile began to embroider, but soon set down her work. The cherry blossom above her head was attracting wasps and bees; they were coming and going, darting about, diving into the centre of the flowers and drinking greedily, heads down and bodies trembling with a sort of spasmodic delight, while a great golden bumblebee, seemingly mocking these agile workers, swayed in the soft breeze as if on a hammock, barely moving and filling the air with its peaceful golden hum. It’s a truism that people are complicated, multifaceted, contradictory, surprising, but it takes the advent of war or other momentous events to be able to see it. It is the most fascinating and the most dreadful of spectacles, she continued thinking, the most dreadful because it’s so real; you can never pride yourself on truly knowing the sea unless you’ve seen it both calm and in a storm. Only the person who has observed men and women at times like this, she thought, can be said to know them. People who always pay the price and the only ones who are truly noble. Odd that the majority of the masses, the detestable masses, are made up of these courageous types.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    "I'm asking you, if you have any feelings for me, to be as careful as possible with your life." "Because it is precious to you?" he asked nervously. "Yes. Because it is precious to me." A beautifully textured, honest portrait of humanity and tragic prescience coupled with a thoroughly moving romance. I'm frequently disgusted by the contemporary novels that romanticize or sentimentalize this time period. Cloying romances masquerading as gritty historical fiction where the war functions primarily as "I'm asking you, if you have any feelings for me, to be as careful as possible with your life." "Because it is precious to you?" he asked nervously. "Yes. Because it is precious to me." A beautifully textured, honest portrait of humanity and tragic prescience coupled with a thoroughly moving romance. I'm frequently disgusted by the contemporary novels that romanticize or sentimentalize this time period. Cloying romances masquerading as gritty historical fiction where the war functions primarily as a dramatic backdrop are the usual culprits. Travesties such as The Nightingale are prime examples that perpetuate this attitude which I find, quite frankly, disrespectful (see my thoughts here). What elevates Suite Française is not only the remarkable story of its author, but its powerful veracity. Némirovsky provides an exposé of the Nazi invasion. She paints a remarkably vivid fresco via multiple perspectives (including a cat) to depict the event in all its facets. Many of her character portraits are unflattering; she does not fall shy of any exactitude when it comes to exposing the cowardice, hypocrisy and vanity that frequently overpower the acts of compassion. Her characters are flawed, they are proud; they refuse exhausted refugees a glass of water, they prioritize drifts of linen and birdcages rather than share their car with pedestrians, they steal petrol, they pillage houses. Némirovsky does not romanticize her experience. She is truthful whilst never sacrificing her integrity in depicting such a difficult period. Suite Française interrogates our romanticized vision of war. It forces us to reexamine events that have been glorified throughout history. Uncannily, Némirovsky predicted this attitude, which she vocalizes through the medium of one of her characters: ‘And to think that no one will know, there will be such a conspiracy of lies that all this will be transformed into yet another glorious page in the history of France.’ The moral complexity of Suite Française is astounding, especially the second installment of the intended five-piece saga, Dolce (also adapted into an exquisite film, Suite Française, starring Michelle Williams). Unlike many modern historical fiction novels, the war is integral to the movement and intricacy of the romance - it is not utilized as a tool to heighten the melodrama. Instead, it orchestrates a cascade of questions as the lines blur between enemy and friend, between enemy and human being. What disturbs the civilians the most is the proximity of the Germans, because it exposes their humanity. How capable are we as humans of retaining hate? Would two people who instigate a romance during the war have fallen in love in peacetime? Suite Française presents a panorama not only of war, but universal themes of people and life. It’s rare that any book is so morally profound, but especially so amid a plethora of sentimentalized novels concerning this conflict. I can understand why one may not entirely enjoy this. The pace is relatively slow and not gripping in the traditional sense of the word. The vignettes may feel disjointed and the plot certainly takes second place to character development. But Suite Française is a stunning character study and the continuity of the fragments is wonderful - it is also imperative to remember that this is only a rough draft of the first two sections of a five-piece novel; Némirovsky’s detailed notes reveal that there was definitely more by way of plot on the horizon, she just needed to see how further events would unfurl. Heartbreakingly, she never got the chance; she was deported in July 1942 and died in Auschwitz a month later. My disappointment at the loss of the remainder of Suite Française is paralleled only by Charlotte Brontë’s rumoured destruction of Emily Brontë’s second novel. An incredible piece of literature.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    It is near on impossible to review this book without first mentioning the author Irene Nemirovsky. A Russian born Jew, settled in France and converted to Catholicism, she started to write Suite Francaise in 1940, two years before her death in Auschwitz. The two novellas included here are the only two completed out of the five that she had planned. The first, Storm in June, introduces us to the characters as we follow them during the exodus from Paris, fleeing from the German occupiers. There are It is near on impossible to review this book without first mentioning the author Irene Nemirovsky. A Russian born Jew, settled in France and converted to Catholicism, she started to write Suite Francaise in 1940, two years before her death in Auschwitz. The two novellas included here are the only two completed out of the five that she had planned. The first, Storm in June, introduces us to the characters as we follow them during the exodus from Paris, fleeing from the German occupiers. There are quite a few people to get to know, some of whom we don’t really see that much of here, presumably because she had been planning to come back to them at some later point. Her characterisation is superb, every character is sharply observed and detailed – they are believable and extremely human with all their faults and foibles exposed. She seemed to take some sort of delight in poking fun at the upper classes, as they pack their treasures – their linen and porcelain, which they cannot do without on the journey. The writing is lyrical, and yet it works more as a commentary of what happened, by someone who was there at the time than as a full blown story. The second, Dolce, has more of a storyline. After the exodus, the French are settling down to life under German occupation. Lucille Angellier’s husband is a prisoner of war and she lives with her mother in law in a French village. When German officer Bruno is assigned to billet with them she finds herself being drawn to him and it is the story of their relationship. I loved the way she started to introduce back characters from the first story, with the rest of the novellas clearly in mind. It is a gently told tale which really picked up steam during the final quarter, when I was really glued to the book. Although I really enjoyed the read, it would have been so much better as part of the complete work that she had envisioned. At the end of the book the first appendix consists of her notes and we get some idea from these as to how she saw the global story developing. Such a shame that she didn’t live long enough to write it. The second appendix consists of letters that have survived from her, her husband and various friends and associates, which cover a period of time from 1938 to the end of the second world war and make really poignant reading.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marigold

    What a fabulous book. Thought-provoking, beautifully written, sad and yet oddly hopeful. Romantic, violent and unflinching. Irene Nemirovsky was a Russian Jew who became exiled from Russia at a young age & had lived in France for many years by the outbreak of the Second World War. Despite being a well-known writer, she was never granted French citizenship. She started Suite Francaise after the outbreak of the war in Europe, wanting to document what she saw going on around her. She planned to What a fabulous book. Thought-provoking, beautifully written, sad and yet oddly hopeful. Romantic, violent and unflinching. Irene Nemirovsky was a Russian Jew who became exiled from Russia at a young age & had lived in France for many years by the outbreak of the Second World War. Despite being a well-known writer, she was never granted French citizenship. She started Suite Francaise after the outbreak of the war in Europe, wanting to document what she saw going on around her. She planned to write the novel in five parts, as a symphony would be written, and with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in mind, with each part of the novel echoing or evoking a particular mood or state of being. She wrote the first two parts, Storm in June and Dolce, and made extensive notes for the third part, plus outline notes about the rest. The notes she made about the book and about what was going on in France at the time, are included in the book & are required reading to appreciate her achievement and the circumstances surrounding it. (Also the heartbreaking letters she & her husband wrote between 1936 & 1945.) In June 1942 Irene felt she would not be able to finish the book, as she became convinced that she would be arrested. She made a will & left detailed instructions with the governess of her two daughters, asking her to care for them if needed. In July 1942 Irene was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. At the time of her arrest, her husband Michel Epstein, didn’t understand that to be arrested & deported meant only one thing. He wrote a series of letters to everyone he could think of in a position of influence, trying to find out where Irene had been taken (which he didn’t know) & volunteering to take her place in the concentration camp, because of her delicate health. He got no response, & in October 1942 he was also arrested & taken to Auschwitz where he was sent immediately to the gas chamber. After that, the police actually hunted for the daughters – who were hidden by their governess & a series of teachers. The older daughter, Denise, hid the manuscript of Suite Francaise in a suitcase as they were fleeing the village where they’d lived before her father’s arrest. She didn’t realize it was a novel & thought it was a diary of her mother’s. After the war, she kept it but she & her sister never read it, finding it too painful. Many years later, they decided to give the manuscript to an organization dedicated to preserving & documenting the memories of those who died in WWII. Before giving it up, Denise decided to translate & type it out, & only then discovered the novel Suite Francaise, which she then gave to a publisher. Irene had planned to edit and revise the novel after she had written the five parts, so the two parts contained in the published version are unfinished, but it’s difficult to see how it could have been better, though it’s obvious that the remaining sections would have tied it all together. Storm in June simply tells the stories of a series of loosely connected people fleeing Paris at the start of the German occupation. Some of them are good people, some not so good, many selfish, many ready to do or say anything to the Germans just to get some food, all of them exhausted, hungry and suddenly homeless. It’s a telling picture of what happens to people under the very worst of circumstances, particularly when they’ve had no time to prepare for what’s happening. The second section, Dolce, is a story about a small village where each home and farm has to take in a German occupying soldier. What happens when an attractive, charming, intelligent German officer comes to live with Lucile, whose husband is a prisoner of war but Lucile didn’t like him much to begin with, and Lucile’s mother-in-law? This is a story that makes you think about how you might react in similar circumstances. If your country has been defeated in war, & the victors are coming to live in your village, what can you do besides live with them? Do you become an outlaw, a fighter? Do you resolve to be nice on the outside but continue hating on the inside? Do you wait for an opportunity to kill one if you can? Or, like Lucile’s mother-in-law, would you spend your days shut up in your room to avoid talking to them, in hatred & suspicion & a state of suspended animation until something shakes you out of it. Do you try to find the good in the individual soldiers who are suddenly living in your town, maybe in your own home? If your village in general finds a way to get along with the outsiders, if things are friendly on the outside, is there always a kernel of something on the inside, something that will keep you apart forever? If you were the Germans in the situation, would you try to be kind to the people you had to live with? Would you share your life with them? Could you ever be comfortable and trusting? Or would you always be looking over your shoulder? It was fascinating to learn more about how young people responded to the French occupation, compared to older people who had been through World War I, many of them losing family members to the Germans in that war. Where Storm is a series of hard-hitting little vignettes, Dolce is a story that builds slowly, using the details of each day – the weather, meals, the life of the farm & village, the books that Lucile reads, the music she listens to – to convey not only the sense of life going on despite horrible circumstances, but also the different ways of responding, & how things are not usually black or white – even in war, people have different & conflicting feelings, sometimes within the course of the same day. Nemirovsky is brilliant at creating two entirely different moods in the two sections. It would have been fascinating to read the other planned sections – if she had carried out her intention of modeling the narrative after a symphonic structure, & had succeeded as well as the first two sections do, I’m sure this would have been one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. What a loss for all of us.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Branwen *of House Targaryen*

    It's a truism that people are complicated, multifaceted, contradictory, surprising, but it takes the advent of war or other momentous events to be able to see it. It is the most fascinating and the most dreadful of spectacles, the most dreadful because it's so real; you can never pride yourself on truly knowing the sea unless you've seen it both calm and in a storm. Only the person who has observed men and women at times like this can be said to know them. And to know themselves. This book begins It's a truism that people are complicated, multifaceted, contradictory, surprising, but it takes the advent of war or other momentous events to be able to see it. It is the most fascinating and the most dreadful of spectacles, the most dreadful because it's so real; you can never pride yourself on truly knowing the sea unless you've seen it both calm and in a storm. Only the person who has observed men and women at times like this can be said to know them. And to know themselves. This book begins on the night before the invasion of Paris from the Germans in June in 1940. It chronicles the lives of various peoples; from all walks of life, as they come to terms with the harsh realites of their homes and country being conquested, occupied, and the fact that none of their lives will ever be the same again. I loved this book so much it is almost painful. One of the reasons I have recently become so obsessed with this time period is because the psychology of war is just so fascinating to me. Well, not the actual war itself-I am interested in the way ordinary citizens behave during times such as these. When reduced to such chaos and fear and uncertainty, a person's true nature is exposed. And this is shown so clearly in this book. Kindness, cruelty, selfishness, generosity, loving, hateful; all of these characteristics rise up out of each character like a beacon to their soul, and you get to know them in ways that you wouldn't ordinarily. This book is very honest and gritty, but it is also truly beauitful. Yes, this is a novel about war. But it is mainly a novel about people. They way that they continue to love and thrive and survive in even the most horrible of circumstances. Additionally, the prose of this book was just gorgeous. I find that now, having reached the end, I have fallen in love with each and every word. Every sentence had beauty, had meaning, had a thousand different things to make you think about later. I also want to point out that the story had a deeper significance as well. The author, Irene Nemirovsky, was a Jew living in Paris when this book was written. She was arrested and taken to Auschwitz, where she died in 1942. This manuscript was hidden for sixty four years, until it was discovered by one of her daughters, who survived the onslaught of the Nazi's. I hope that by reading this book and loving it as much as I do, it does some justice to her memory. This is truly not a book to be missed! It is epic, heart-breaking, and gloriously beautiful! The stars were coming out, springtime stars with a silvery glow. Paris had its sweetest smell, the smell of chestnut trees in bloom and of petrol with a few grains of dust that crack under your teeth like pepper. In the darkness the danger seemed to grow. You could smell the suffering in the air, in the silence. Even people who were normally calm and controlled were overwhelmed by anxiety and fear. Panic obliterated everything that wasn't animal instinct, involuntary physical reaction. Rare was the person who cared about their possession; everyone wrapped their arms tightly round their wife or child and nothing else mattered; the rest could go up in flames.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    This is a story of the invasion of Paris by the Germans in WW II (Part I) and the German occupation of a village outside of Paris (Part II). War brings out the best and worst in people and during the chaotic flight out of Paris (to which most of those who fled simply returned a week or two later) we see examples of great generosity and sharing but also people stealing food and gasoline from each other. The author follows the escapades of a variety of people from a cross-section of classes but sh This is a story of the invasion of Paris by the Germans in WW II (Part I) and the German occupation of a village outside of Paris (Part II). War brings out the best and worst in people and during the chaotic flight out of Paris (to which most of those who fled simply returned a week or two later) we see examples of great generosity and sharing but also people stealing food and gasoline from each other. The author follows the escapades of a variety of people from a cross-section of classes but she saves her vitriol, spoken through her characters, for the upper classes and intellectuals. A playwright, a banker and an antiques dealer provide some of the worst examples of selfish behavior. But the lower classes aren’t off the hook – for example, a group of orphan boys kills a priest who was trying to help them. In Part II, in the occupied village, the class focus shifts to peasants and landowners. German officers are quartered in people’s homes and again we have the full gamut of human behaviors ranging from some French who won’t even speak to a German to a woman who falls in love with a German officer even though her French husband is a German POW. The ghosts of the prior French-German wars in 1914 and in the 1870’s come up so much they are like a character in the novel. The book is strangely silent about the impact of the war on Jews in France. I say strangely because the author and her husband were Catholics of Jewish ancestry. Both were imprisoned and died in concentration camps. Their two daughters escaped and one had this novel in her suitcase. The book has a heart-braking appendix of letters from the author, Nemirovsky, writing to bankers and lawyers trying to get her confiscated funds freed up to support her family and letters from her husband to lawyers and diplomats trying to learn the whereabouts of his wife (the author) who was imprisoned first.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (Giraffe Days)

    Paris, June 1940. Word is spreading like a stain that the Germans are only days away from invading the city. It takes a while for the people to believe it, and still longer for them to pack - slinging mattresses on top of their cars, storing linens and tableware in trunks - but when the exodus occurs it clogs the streets and the railway and thousands are left to walk the country roads while those in motorcars honk and swear at them for taking up all the road. The Germans are everywhere, it seems. Paris, June 1940. Word is spreading like a stain that the Germans are only days away from invading the city. It takes a while for the people to believe it, and still longer for them to pack - slinging mattresses on top of their cars, storing linens and tableware in trunks - but when the exodus occurs it clogs the streets and the railway and thousands are left to walk the country roads while those in motorcars honk and swear at them for taking up all the road. The Germans are everywhere, it seems. Wherever the Parisians can flee to, the Germans arrive and bomb bridges, railways, buildings. The hotels are full to the brim, the country people won't take people in - they have little enough themselves, most of the time. Sons run away to join the French troops: insufficient, unprepared, with no ammunition for their guns, they withdraw to the demarcation line. When the armistice is signed, the Germans settle into the towns, billeted in people's homes, playing with children who don't know and don't care that they are the enemy, while the upper and middle classes hoard all they have and leave everyone else to get by as best they can. A year later, the Germans pull out: they're being sent to Russia, and the French aren't sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. This isn't an easy book to give a plot summary for. The blurb on the back cover doesn't even try; it lures you in with the tragic story of the author herself, which is probably the same story you've heard if you've heard of this book, and led me to think it was a memoir. It's not, but it is, because Némirovsky was writing it with a delay of about a year. It's also necessary to understand the author, her precarious position and her fate, as well as her inspiration, motivation and goals - all revealed in the Appendices at the back, which contain her notes for the book, correspondence, and a short biography that was a preface to the French edition. The Appendices are definitely worth your while to read, after reading the novel, but I'll need to impart some of it here as well, because I don't think I can discuss the novel without discussing Némirovsky as well. She was inspired by music: "she dreamed of a book of a thousand pages, constructed like a symphony, but in five sections, according to rhythm and tone. She took Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as a model" (p417, from the French preface). I think it helps to know that, or the novel could almost feel cumbersome and plotless. It sometimes felt that way to me, which made it hard to read at times, while if I'd known (or figured out) the symphonic link I would have been more appreciative. What survived of the novel, what Némirovsky was able to write before being arrested and sent to a concentration camp - and then on to Auschwitz, where she died in 1942 - is the first two parts, Storm in June and Dolce. Storm details the movements of the masses, the middle and upper middle classes, trying to escape the Germans and retain their privileges and high standards. There are a great many characters, an ensemble cast, featuring the Pércand family, including their eldest son, an unlikeable priest much loved by his family who meets an early and awful death; the Michaud's, lower middle class bank employees and, separately, their son Jean-Marie who is wounded in the war and cared for by a farming family; Gabriel Corte, the arrogant, proud writer and his mistress Julie, fleeing with their driver and maid and horrified to be sharing the road with a lower class; another horrible, stuck-up man called Charlie who only cares about his porcelain collection; and some other minor characters who float to the surface like flotsam in a tide after a shipwreck. In Dolce, most of these characters fall away - Némirovsky planned to bring them back in the third part, which was to be called Captivity - and centres instead on Lucile and her scary mother-in-law, Madame Angellier, who, with their lovely big house, billet a German lieutenant, Bruno von Falk, who falls in love with Lucile (her husband, Gaston, is a prisoner-of-war and they don't even know if he's still alive). The family who helped Jean-Marie also reappear, as they are local tenant-farmers of the Montmorts, an aristocratic couple dominated by the countess who considers herself pious, godly, and just but refuses to sell her grain etc to the farmers, giving it instead to her friends. This story is essentially about two things: movement - the movement of the masses, the small details, the story of the war as told from the perspective of the masses; and classism: the attitudes of the upper middle classes, the cowardice, greed and inertness of the masses and their "loathsome" defeat. That is one of the interesting things about this book: despite being Jewish herself, and dying because of it (born in Russia, her wealthy family fled persecution at the hands of the Bolsheviks and emigrated to France, where Némirovsky married Michel Epstein and had two daughters - Denise and Elisabeth; they converted to Catholicism to distance themselves from their Jewish origins but it didn't help), Suite Française isn't about Jews, anti-Semitism or the concentration and extermination camps. In her notes, she twice mentions the Jewish condition for Captivity, but in Storm in June and Dolce, there is not one hint or allusion to Jews or their plight. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just a curious one. In a way, the predicament of all the non-Jews tends to get overlooked because of the Holocaust: the stories of non-Jews aren't as horrific but they are still voices that need to be heard. Némirovsky isn't sympathetic to the French masses she's writing about, but she does strip them of their gloss and show their human side, their foibles, their arrogance and hypocrisy and cowardice, and also their defiance, even if it's for the "wrong" reasons (like personal pride) - more importantly, it's a recognisable story, one that strips bare the human condition and our own meagre defences; she casts an all-seeing eye on the tableau to reveal their caprices without openly judging them: the prose is frank but poetic, showing and revealing without dictating. Especially in Dolce, when the conquering Germans and the occupied French mingle, the "alien other" Germans becoming more and more human and familiar, and the lines between friend and foe blur, does Suite Française become a masterpiece of human insight. There's no simple black-and-white demarcation line here. In this current era of racism and hatred, of blacklisting people with Middle Eastern names and persecuting Muslims for the actions of a small, violent off-shoot who barely follow Islam at all, Suite Française is poignantly relevant, timely, and worth heeding. Another thing to note that isn't usual in books about war is that you won't learn anything about WWII from this book - not about troop movements, about dates or treaties or who's fighting whom and where. All of that is in the background, somewhere, unseen but still affecting the people in various ways, who are ultimately isolated, forbidden to have a radio, to drive anywhere, to know what's going on. And some of them don't want to know. As humans, they strive to recreate a "normal" life under occupation, to do as they've always done, though for many, love and laughter - the two things most sought after - are tainted and elusive. Because there isn't a main character or two, and because you're not sure where the story's going, it isn't always an easy read, but you have to have faith and block out distractions and stick with it. It's quite beautifully written, and reads very polished even though the author doubtless would have made many changes. It's just the directionless feeling that can make it taxing. Just keep in mind that she was writing this in 1941, and didn't know herself what would happen with the war. Suite Française is an insightful novel into the realities of war for civilians, and you probably won't find a book with more detail than this one. It's a shame she never got to finish it, or it would be a masterpiece on the scale of War and Peace, which she often mentioned in her notes. As she also mentioned in her notes, it does contain a map of France at the front, but it would have been more helpful if it had included more of the places that the characters travel to and live in. This is a magnificent book, very symphonic (I'm sure the author would be pleased to hear), with its own tragic yet hopeful story - being smuggled around France in a suitcase by Irène's young daughter Denise as she and her sister try to keep ahead of the gas chamber, never looked at until years later when Denise started transcribing her mother's tiny handwriting and realised it was a novel. The sad facts around the author's untimely death, all the effort her husband put into trying to have her released, only to be arrested himself and sent immediately to the gas chamber - all lend an extra edge of reality to what is a very real fictional story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Whitaker

    Such a sadness that Irène Némirovsky never finished this work. Written during the Occupation of France and describing its events, it’s almost a contemporaneous description of life in Occupied France. The two parts that do exist suggest that it would have been a magisterial work. Part 1, Tempête en Juin, describes the flight from Paris of four families and is clearly the more polished of the two parts. Part 2, Dolce, feels more unbalanced. A critical killing that takes place towards the end feels Such a sadness that Irène Némirovsky never finished this work. Written during the Occupation of France and describing its events, it’s almost a contemporaneous description of life in Occupied France. The two parts that do exist suggest that it would have been a magisterial work. Part 1, Tempête en Juin, describes the flight from Paris of four families and is clearly the more polished of the two parts. Part 2, Dolce, feels more unbalanced. A critical killing that takes place towards the end feels insufficiently foreshadowed. One suspects that if Némirovsky had had more time to revise this part, one would have seen a greater balancing and contrast between Bruno von Falk’s romancing of Lucile Angellier and Bonnet’s romancing of Madeleine. As it currently stands, Bonnet’s romancing of Madeleine is barely mentioned and the denouement of those events comes too starkly and suddenly. Némirovsky has a brilliant and subtle pen. One chapter in Part 1 describes the Péricands' pet cat hunting in the night. It comes just before the bombing of the village that the Péricands take shelter in. The stalking and killing of a bird and the cat’s delectation at its kill are elegantly described:Il revint portant dans sa gueule un petit oiseau inerte ; il léchait doucement le sang qui coulait de sa blessure. Il but ce sang chaud, les paupières serrées, avec délice. Il avait mis ses griffes sur le cœur de la bête, tantôt les desserrant, tantôt les enfonçant dans la tendre chair, sur les os légers, d’un mouvement lent, rythmé, jusqu’à ce que ce cœur s’arrête de battre. Il mangea l’oiseau sans hâte, se lava, lustra sa queue, l’extrémité de sa belle queue de fourrure où l’humidité de la nuit avait laissé une trace mouillée et brillante. Il se sentait disposé à la bienveillance maintenant : une musaraigne fila entre ses pattes sans qu’il la retînt et il se contenta d’assener sur la tête d’une taupe un coup qui lui laissa à demi morte, mais il n’alla pas plus loin. It returned carrying an inert little bird in its mouth; it gently licked the blood that flowed from its wound. It drank the hot blood, its eyelids closed, with pleasure. It had placed its claws on the heart of the animal, sometimes relaxing its grip, sometimes pushing the claws in a little deeper into the tender flesh, on the little bones, with a slow rhythmic movement, until the heart beats stopped. It ate the bird slowly, cleaned itself, and smoothed its tail, the end of which was wet and bright from the dampness of the night. Now it felt inclined towards kindness: a shrew ran between its paws without it attempting to stop it and it merely contented itself with hitting a mole with a single swipe of its paw, leaving the animal half dead but not going any further.This murderous act is beautifully written metaphor for the German advance on France. Another example of the force of Némirovsky's writing occurs in Chapter 3 of Part 2, when Lucile Angellier leaves for church with her mother-in-law after having just met the officer that will be staying in their house, Bruno von Falk. Lucile is trapped in a loveless marriage to Gaston, a husband who keeps a mistress in Lyon and sneers at Lucile for not having brought with her the fortune that he had thought she would. Her thoughts vacillate between attraction and hate, and Némirovsky writes:Lucile, malgré elle, ralentit le pas : elle ne pouvait cesser de regarder cette main grande et fine, aux long doigts (elle l’imaginait tenant un lourd revolver noir, ou une mitraillette ou une grenade, n’importe quelle arme qui dispense la mort avec indifférence), elle contemplait cet uniforme vert (combien de Français, dans les nuits de veille, avaient guetté dans l’ombre d’un sous-bois l’apparition d’un uniforme semblable…) et ces bottes étincelantes… Depuis longtemps la porte s’était refermée sur l’officier; Lucile avait suivi sa belle-mère ; elle était entrée à l’église ; elle s’était agenouillée à son banc, mais elle ne pouvait oublier l’ennemi. … « Recitons notre chapelet pour Gaston, ma mère. » Lucile, in spite of herself, slowed her pace : she could not stop seeing that hand large and fine, its long fingers (she imagined them holding a black heavy revolver or a machine gun or a grenade, or any weapon that brought death with indifference), she contemplated that green uniform (how many French soldiers, during their night watches, had spied in the darkness of the underwood the appearance of similar uniform…) and those shining boots … The door had long since closed behind the officer ; Lucile had followed her mother-in-law; she had entered the church; she had knelt at her bench, but she could not forget the enemy… “Let us say a rosary for Gaston, mother.”It’s worthwhile, I think, mentioning the romantic relationships between the French village women and the German men that are depicted in Part 2. I’m intrigued that Némirovsky chose to base Part 2 of her novel on this as the “horizontal collaboration” as it was known was long a shameful hidden part of the Occupation. The fate of these women, and if they had children out of that relationship, their children, was unenviable come the end of the war. The women were shamed in the public square by having their heads shaved; some were raped or branded with swastikas; and all were sentenced to prison. This, despite the fact, as documented in 1940-1945, Années érotiques : L'occupation intime (1940-1945: Erotic Years: The Intimate Occupation), it was hardly a rare occurrence. If the novel is anything to go by, Némirovsky seems to look with some sympathy at these relationships which, based on the historical record, must have been happening as much around her in the village she was hiding out in as did the flight of refugees from Paris. I speculate that she was able to do this, to not reduce the specific German soldiers to faceless monsters because she takes the long view of events. Several times in Part 2, characters refer to other wars between France and Germany. The First World War obviously: a villager talks of having killed Germans in the First World War, all for nothing now, and one of the German soldiers mentions French soldiers looting and destroying his family’s home in the last war. But she looks further back too: to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, and even further back to the Napoleonic wars. This fighting has been going on back and forth for a long long time and there is plenty of blame to be spread all around. Instead, Némirovsky reserves her anger not for the Germans but for the French nobles and the rich. Her most loathsome characters come from the ranks of the upper class: they who dwell in luxury and despise the common people. The ones who come across the worst in the novel expressly their disgust volubly. In Part 1, Gabriel Corte and Charles Langelet shudder in open horror at having to put up with the uncultured poor thronging the highways with them. In Part 2, Madam Montmort, the aristocrat of the village, denounces one of the farmers that works on her land for possessing a rifle when she catches him stealing her corn and he refuses to bend the knee and beg forgiveness. What she finds infuriating most of all is not the theft but the uppitiness of the peasant (a Bolshevik no less!) in answering back to her. So, she gets her revenge by denouncing him and sets off a chain of events that will end the second part of the novel. By contrast, it is the poor and ordinary, the French oppressed by their own society that get the fullest sympathy from her. We will never know how the remaining three parts would have played out, and I for one think it’s a loss for literature. Still, I am glad to have had the chance to read this work, both of art and of history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    AC

    Némirovsky was a Russian Jew who emigrated as a child to France. There, she became a popular and successful writer, converted to Roman Catholicism, became an anti-semite who associated with right-wing (fascist) writers and editors, but who by 1942 was deported to Auschwitz and gassed. Her husband was murdered soon afterwards. She left a lengthy manuscript in a diary that was in the possession of her daughter, who refused to look at it all her life -- thinking it was only a diary and that reading Némirovsky was a Russian Jew who emigrated as a child to France. There, she became a popular and successful writer, converted to Roman Catholicism, became an anti-semite who associated with right-wing (fascist) writers and editors, but who by 1942 was deported to Auschwitz and gassed. Her husband was murdered soon afterwards. She left a lengthy manuscript in a diary that was in the possession of her daughter, who refused to look at it all her life -- thinking it was only a diary and that reading it would be upsetting. When she finally did look at it and discovered it actually contained a manuscript, she had it published. The backstory is quite interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irène_Né... The book was conceived as 1,000 page Magnum Opus -- the author was very conscious that she was writing her manuscript -- a War and Peace for the Modern Era. But in fact, only two of the five parts (Storm in June and Dolce) were more or less completed; and a third part Captivity (about the concentration camps) apparently is still in manuscript form. What we have here, Storm and Dolce, amount to two novellas. What is interesting about these books is that they are written by someone living the events almost in real time, but they are not a diary, but a very well structured fictional work. In other words, there is detachment, as well as passion to it. Storm consists of a series of interlocking vignettes, as Némirovsky follows a set of characters fleeing Paris in the tumultuous week of the invasion. It is very moving and, apart from one or two false notes (one can see the seams, as it were), quite brilliant (5-stars). The immortality that Némirovsky wanted will have to rest on this slender little novel. Dolce is extremely mediocre - it is about the lusts of some sexually frustrated frenchwomen who are falling in love with these hypermasculine blond Nazis. The Nazis are glorified, their muscles are described many times, they are all poets and musicians, highly cultivated, invariably polite, and seductive -- only the French men in the story seem to be not too thrilled with them -- but those men are boorish peasants, so WTF do they know... The story drips with fascist sympathies -- the anti-German patriotism of the characters is the patriotism that loves "le Marèchal!" (i.e., Petain)..... What is worse, the story is melodramatic and -- nobody even goes to bed. They don't even get around to kissing. 3 stars. And this, remember, was being written by a woman who was months away from the gas-chamber.... If you read this book, be sure to read the short Appendix I - which contains notes by the author on events and on her plotted of the novel. It contains some gems. E.g.: "The French grew tired of the Republic as if she were an old wife. For them, the dictatorship was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realize she's dead, their Republic, their freedom. They're mourning her." Or... "The most hated men in France in 1942: Philippe Henriot and Pierre Laval. The first as the Tiger, the second as the Hyena: around Henriot you can smell fresh blood, and around Laval the stench of rotting flesh." The translation, as you can see from this, is wonderful. Anyway - a mixed bag -- find the good in it, chuck the dross. A good companion piece to Wescott's Apartment (also about the Occupation), though not to be compared with Wescott in quality.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria Hill AKA MH Books

    This book was intended by the author a great opus to the lives of the French during the occupation of World War II, a kind of War and Peace. It was mean’t to be a five part novel but was unfortunately never finished due to Némirovsky’s death in Auschwitz. It is never the less a fascinating insight into French society in 1940 and 1941. Némirovsky creates characters that are flawed and nearly always both arrogant and selfish. However, each one is beautifully, beautifully drawn. She describes the i This book was intended by the author a great opus to the lives of the French during the occupation of World War II, a kind of War and Peace. It was mean’t to be a five part novel but was unfortunately never finished due to Némirovsky’s death in Auschwitz. It is never the less a fascinating insight into French society in 1940 and 1941. Némirovsky creates characters that are flawed and nearly always both arrogant and selfish. However, each one is beautifully, beautifully drawn. She describes the innate selfishness of people trying to flourish and survive during world war II. She describes the people packing their valuables for the mass exodus out of Paris, linens, scripts, jewellery but in one memorable occasion they forgot their father in law. In the second part of the book “Dolce”, Némirovsky humanises the Germans as not just the enemy but as boys and men living among them (the French) and no different than the French conquerors in Germany after the first War. The novel also tells of how life goes on despite war and tragedy. Mothers of dead and missing Sons compete over who has the worst Rheumatism, young French women and German soldiers ignore the fact they are in opposite sides and children play in the Gardens of abandoned houses. Overall this unfinished piece of writing (particularly the first part – A Storm in June) had the potential to be something amazing

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    1 Star - Horrible book, don't even bother reading the back cover. I tried really, really really hard to like this book. I held out hope up until the very end but I just couldn't find anything I enjoyed about it. I think I wanted to like it so hard because of the author's tragic story. Irène Némirovsky was living in France and deported to Auschwitz before she could finish her book. A horrible fate of course, but I still couldn't bring myself to like it. I found the story dull, just incredibly dull 1 Star - Horrible book, don't even bother reading the back cover. I tried really, really really hard to like this book. I held out hope up until the very end but I just couldn't find anything I enjoyed about it. I think I wanted to like it so hard because of the author's tragic story. Irène Némirovsky was living in France and deported to Auschwitz before she could finish her book. A horrible fate of course, but I still couldn't bring myself to like it. I found the story dull, just incredibly dull. It reminds me of All the Light We Cannot See but I liked that book significantly more than I liked this one. And that's saying something because I didn't care for that one. I didn't have strong attachments to any of the characters. I didn't particularly like any of them, which didn't bode well for the book. And I didn't necessarily hate any of them either. They were mediocre at best and that frustrates me to no end. I like to have feelings about the book I'm reading, sure, but I can't stand books where I don't connect at least on some level to characters - even just one. Additionally, the writing is not impressive. It's not beautiful and it's not terrible. Her words didn't keep me interested, much less on the edge of my seat. Sadly, I cannot recommend this book in good conscious.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    When I finished this book I got rid of it. I can probably count on one hand the books I've given away, at least in adulthood. I donated it to the library. I read about this book, about how her daughters had held onto the manuscript after she was sent to the concentration camps and how it had recently been published. Exciting! The library didn't have the audio version yet, and I wanted it so I could listen as I drove back and forth to work, so I said I wanted for my birthday or some other occasion When I finished this book I got rid of it. I can probably count on one hand the books I've given away, at least in adulthood. I donated it to the library. I read about this book, about how her daughters had held onto the manuscript after she was sent to the concentration camps and how it had recently been published. Exciting! The library didn't have the audio version yet, and I wanted it so I could listen as I drove back and forth to work, so I said I wanted for my birthday or some other occasion. We began listening on a car trip, and, can you believe it, neither of us liked it! My husband never finished it, so he didn't record having read it. Too bad, because that's my back-up method of determining when I've read a book. I never kept any sort of a list of what I'd read until starting in 2005 I kept lists of each year's notable books for an end-of-year newsletter. Only in 2008 did I start a true list. This book didn't make the cut. I can't find it on any list. I read it some time between 2006 and 2009, probably closer to 2006. By early 2010 I had subscribed to Audible and wouldn't have purchased CDs. Why didn't we like it? Well, nothing ever happened. You don't identify with or care about the characters. It's about frustration and chaos and a comedy of errors in leaving Paris before the advancing Germans. Or, rather, the first novella is. To be fair, the author was only able to complete the first two books of Suite Française before she was shipped off to the camps and perished. It was to have five parts, so the narrative may have advanced if the author had lived. The second novella is about a young German officer billeted in a home in the French countryside and the developing romance between him and the young lady of the house. Sometime after I read the book--a few years ago--I came across articles about the author having been considered antisemitic. I also read that not even one of these characters in the book was a Jew, a fact that may have been under my radar. Fast-forward to 2013, and what should show up on the book-club list but Suite Française? I checked the hardback out of the library with the intention of rereading it for the book discussion and never did do it, but the upshot was that the book club jogged my memory plus brought out various perspectives. Some people loved it. Everyone who spoke up thought it was well-written. Some people said the focus on minutia took its toll, although that sort of reality focus was said to be Balzac-like (I think). Someone pointed out that almost all of the characters were off-putting. I read Appendix I, consisting of the author's notes for the rest of the book she intended to write, and Appendix II, her letters and those of her husband and others after the German invasion and then her arrest. I thought about what it means to say somebody of the past, particularly a Jew, was antisemitic. This book doesn't exhibit overt antisemitism although I read that some of her earlier books, specifically David Golder, have been described as based on anti-Jewish stereotypes. I have a pet peeve about people looking back into the past through the lens of the 21st century and making certain pronouncements: Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln ended their letters to other men with flowery closings so they must be gay, or, for that matter, there are those who claim Abraham Lincoln was a racist. When Jews started to be allowed into European society in the 18th century, they emerged into a wider society that looked way, way down on them after centuries of theology and tradition. Under those circumstances it becomes impossible to survive the tidal wave of the majority culture unscathed. For example, "Jew" in Christian society was an ugly word carrying a boatload of negative connations so it seemed ugly to the newly emancipated Jews, too: it was the word "Jew" that was the problem, right, so let's be "Hebrews." The whole kit and kaboodle of Judaism seems suspect when highlighted against the majority culture, so let's fit in. Take the Ephrussi clan from The Hare with Amber Eyes: It is a good place to change your name. 'Jewish names are unpleasant to the ear': this is where their grandmother Balbina became Belle, and where their grandfather Chaim became Joachim, and then Charles Joachim. This is where Eizak became Ignace and where Leib became Léon. And Efrussi became Ephrussi. This is where the memory of Bedichev, the shtetl on the edge of Poland where Chaim came from, was walled up behind the pale-yellow plaster of their first Palais on the promenade. This is where they became the Ephrussi from Odessa. (p. 344) So Jews in general were at risk for imbibing some of the attitudes about them from the surrounding culture (like any minority facing a cultural hegemony), and Irène Némerovsky just drank more of the Kool-Aid. She apparently bought into the cultural stereotype that it was "those" Jews who were at fault for the attitudes against them, so if she condemned those supposed characteristics and avoided the people who bore them, she could leave it all behind. She couldn't see, until it was too late, that those attitudes were in the eye of the beholder. One other thing: She was a success as a novelist, and--ain't it the truth!--when we feel we are winners, we attribute it all to our own efforts and forget about luck. No doubt that contributed to her belief she was made of different stuff. For me the book's value is as the earliest WWII novel and the cultural view of someone immersed in it but not yet seeing the implications. I heard in the book discussion that there was going to be a movie. Someone predicted the movie would focus on the love affair.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    this book was reccommended to me by my dear friend and avid reader, kimi. For literary mastery I would have given this book four stars, but given the history and circumstances for which this book endured to be written -and published 50 years later, well...its phenomenal! Irene Nemirovsky had intended the book to be five mini-books within one binding. She didn't live to write the final three and ironically titled the final two with (question marks at the end) battle? peace?. She wrote this extrao this book was reccommended to me by my dear friend and avid reader, kimi. For literary mastery I would have given this book four stars, but given the history and circumstances for which this book endured to be written -and published 50 years later, well...its phenomenal! Irene Nemirovsky had intended the book to be five mini-books within one binding. She didn't live to write the final three and ironically titled the final two with (question marks at the end) battle? peace?. She wrote this extraordinary novel during fall of France and Nazi occupation. The depth of detail, humanity of characters, and depiction of cruelty/evil and compassion/justice places the reader in the midst of French humiliation. As the citizens of France struggle to reconcile their current defeat, German soldiers invade their town and lives. Nemirovsky does not villify the Nazi regime, but rather shows them as they were, young men, soldiers, some cruel, others kind. In reading it, I have to wonder if she would have changed her characters had she known the bredth of Nazi atrocities/cruelty/inhumanity. Or if she had lived to see the Americans liberate France and had the ability to reflect on the time period considering all of the horror of Nazi cruelty. There is very little mentioned about the Jews, only fleeting references of characters that worry/wonder about the fate of the Jewish French. In a twist of irony this acclaimed Catholic author was later arrested and eventually died in Auchwitz in 1942. Her Jewish ancestry ultimately led to her arrest and in her husbands desperate attempts to free her, he condemmed himself by showing he too had Jewish ancestry but was a devote Catholic. He believed her arrest was mostly due to a misunderstanding about her Russian heritage. How could he have known they would murder her for a bloodline she didn't even claim? Or that he too would be sent to the same camp and gassed for having a similar ancestry? When Irene was writing this amazing novel, she could not have known of the camps, the millions who would die, the horror of a madman's vision. Who, other then those who lived it and those who were in Germany and later Poland, could have known what evil was capable of? She wrote this novel as a current events. She never lived to see the depth of French struggle, the thousands hunted and killed, the battles between the Allies and Germany, the liberation of France, PEACE. She would never know of Hitlers genocide, the rise of communism, or the rebuilding of Europe. She would never get the chance to polish up her novel. But this work, in its purity is so well illustrated, so beautiful. It is a novel, through the eyes of one who was LIVING it. **a side note her daughters, hid in cellars during the end of the war bc they were being hunted by the French police (commissioned by the SS), saved her notebook containing this novel. Neither had the heart to read it- thinking it notes and journal, until a few years ago. when she discovered it was a novel, she had is published immediately.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Redfox5

    I wish I had been able to give this book my undivided attention, but I happened to be reading it in the busiest period of my life! I took it with me to Disney World, got married and then have just moved house! Because of this I never really got to sit down and sink my teeth in it, just read it in bits. This was a shame because this is one of those books, you could happily sit down for a few hours with, thankfully I did get to do this with the ending on the plane. This book is not completed, as I wish I had been able to give this book my undivided attention, but I happened to be reading it in the busiest period of my life! I took it with me to Disney World, got married and then have just moved house! Because of this I never really got to sit down and sink my teeth in it, just read it in bits. This was a shame because this is one of those books, you could happily sit down for a few hours with, thankfully I did get to do this with the ending on the plane. This book is not completed, as the author Nemirovsky was sadly taken and killed at Auschwitz before she finished. However the writing is so good, it feels like a full book. It follows the lives of various French citizens, as they adjust to life under the Nazi occupation. Nemirovsky writes without judgement towards those who were kind and tolerated the Germans, which is extraordinary considering what she must have been going through at the time of writing. This fictional novel, helps paint a picture better than most history books could. I always find it fascinating when books look deeper into soldiers, what they are really like when they take off the uniform. At the end of this book, personal diaries from the author are included. Along with some heart breaking letters her husband had written, trying to find out where his wife had been taken, not releasing she was already dead. This is a book you must make time to read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I should have read this book long ago. The novel describes life in a small village in France during the first years of the German occupation. Everyone in the village handels the intruders in a different way and the story is especially fascinating when the faalings and thoughts of the villagers are described. While long time has past since then. I still recognizd the characters visiting ‘la campagne’ and the wounds of that time still remain also in my country. What is especially horrorful is that I should have read this book long ago. The novel describes life in a small village in France during the first years of the German occupation. Everyone in the village handels the intruders in a different way and the story is especially fascinating when the faalings and thoughts of the villagers are described. While long time has past since then. I still recognizd the characters visiting ‘la campagne’ and the wounds of that time still remain also in my country. What is especially horrorful is that the writer herself was deported to concentration camp and killed there. Knowing this, the book is also a very sad story.

  27. 4 out of 5

    classic reverie

    This novel has so much to it. Besides the story being so profound & enlightening of the French defeat & occupation, the appendages & letters interesting to get a better idea what the author Irene Nemirovsky had to deal with when writing this incomplete work. In my mind it is a compete enough work & worth the read despite some nightmares I had while reading. The reason I say it is a complete work is because this story being Fiction was a kind of non Fiction account to what she had This novel has so much to it. Besides the story being so profound & enlightening of the French defeat & occupation, the appendages & letters interesting to get a better idea what the author Irene Nemirovsky had to deal with when writing this incomplete work. In my mind it is a compete enough work & worth the read despite some nightmares I had while reading. The reason I say it is a complete work is because this story being Fiction was a kind of non Fiction account to what she had to deal with. She was living in France since after her family fled Russia in the 1917 or about there but not a citizen of France. She has Jewish ancestry as well as her husband. She had great plans for this book with many sections she could not finish because of her deportment & death at Auschwitz in August 1942. She had wanted this book to be over a thousand pages & had many ideas which she wrote done in a log. Her daughter when she was younger knew her mom was a writer & when she & the rest of her family (younger sister & family friend) went into hiding because the French had nothing better to do then look for these little girls so they could be killed like their parents! She knew that the small writing in this journal was something that was of her mother but it was too painful to look at until years later & she found this unfinished gem of a book. The daughters survived!Irene converted to Catholicism but that did not stop the Vichy & the Germans from taking anyone with Jewish ancestry to be deported. Irene was the first to be taken & her husband tried to intervene for her release & near the end distraught offered for an exchange of his place of hers. On doing this she was already sent to her death & the authorities arrested him to which ended in the same fate as his wife.The novel is the defeat & occupation of France by the Nazis. She describes different characters & how they deal with the coming of the Germans to Paris and the exodus of the inhabitants. You can see how well she grasp human nature & the dark side of it as well as the good but mostly dark. I remember reading Winston Churchill's Gathering Storm which was basically how the Germans were able to build themselves up to their enormous power to invade other countries. What I remember most as the French having to deal with the Germans in their want to conquer other countries & the massive amount of Frenchmen killed prior to WW 1 & WW 1 dead & wounded. This psychological factor, fighting fatigue & countries letting Germany increase their war supplies & other countries told to decrease theirs as well as contrition of troops. So one can understand in sense their tiredness of war & the increased ease of surrendering.The some selfish characters come to their just ends where some saints as of a young priest are murder in a unbelievable sad way by ways of soulless French youth. She likes to show he hypocrisy of many do gooders who really are looking out for their on interest. The exodus is so gripping because of the reality of it being a real thing that happened. She also shows & in her remarks after the novel about people ability to except change after a initial strike that people come to deal with change & orders to not stir the pot so to say. The wanting to think of the community rights & not individual in excepting the change. This is not a noble community togetherness but one they think necessary to prevent any conflict. Reporting offenders or reporting about people they don't like to the Vichy or Germans they make it seems justifiable but maybe for selfish reasons too. She mentions how food makes many do things that are good for them but not for the people as a whole. She state that people with more are less likely to fight for individual right then those who have less. Lucille is a character that has torn feelings about her possible love for a German soldier occupying her house. He does his duty but wishes he could compose music & live a life without war. Lucille & him find a kind of friendship/ love that is their solace from all around them but not possible due to many factors. I liked his analogy of bees in a hive & it is the war and needs of community over individual wishes that gets caught up in the storm. She has many interesting statements in this novel which really are quite enlightening & brilliant. I could go on & on but will leave it at that. I have given this book my own ending but even though this book is unfinished it is so worth the read. I hope that makes sense.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Too long and too boring. At first sounded promising, i thought the characters will somehow get together in some sort of thrilling situations. Also the psychology in the beginning sounded promising. but unfortunately after 23% in the book, with basically NOTHING happening but germans bombing the french, i gave up. This is that type of literature that is afraid to take chances, to shock a bit its audience.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    The first part, "Storm in June," had stretches that had me often thinking of Tolstoy. Great Tolstoy. "War & Peace" Tolstoy. I give it 4.5, even though you know you're reading a draft. It's a really good draft, and nearly finished. The "Catholic" thing got a bit precious at times, but I have no reason to doubt that it's an accurate portrayal for that time and place. Things flatten out with "Dolce," the second part. This is understandable, given the extreme conditions Nemirovsky was writing un The first part, "Storm in June," had stretches that had me often thinking of Tolstoy. Great Tolstoy. "War & Peace" Tolstoy. I give it 4.5, even though you know you're reading a draft. It's a really good draft, and nearly finished. The "Catholic" thing got a bit precious at times, but I have no reason to doubt that it's an accurate portrayal for that time and place. Things flatten out with "Dolce," the second part. This is understandable, given the extreme conditions Nemirovsky was writing under. Still, we must be thankful for what we have. What a tragedy. Nemirovsky, had she lived (she would die in Auschwitz) and had the opportunity develop her epic, could well have written one of the great books of our time.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    I reread Suite Francaise, one of my absolute favourite books, whilst in France over Easter. It is even more beautiful than I remember it being. All of Nemirovsky's novels are sweeping masterpieces, but she perhaps reached the pinnacle here. I can think of very few novels which even touch this one in their brilliance and evocation. Nemirovsky's descriptions are, of course, sublime, and the novel is - like all of her work - peopled with a complex cast of realistic characters. An incredibly insight I reread Suite Francaise, one of my absolute favourite books, whilst in France over Easter. It is even more beautiful than I remember it being. All of Nemirovsky's novels are sweeping masterpieces, but she perhaps reached the pinnacle here. I can think of very few novels which even touch this one in their brilliance and evocation. Nemirovsky's descriptions are, of course, sublime, and the novel is - like all of her work - peopled with a complex cast of realistic characters. An incredibly insightful and important work about the Second World War by one of my favourite authors.

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