Irene Nemirovsky – Suite Francaise

I read this about six months ago now, so may be a bit rusty but I remember thinking that it was one of the most AMAZING books I had read in a long time.  The story itself is really interesting but what is even more so is the postscript which tells the story of Nemirovsky’s real life and how the book came to be discovered in the 1990s, over 40 years after it was written.

The novel itself deals with the occupation of France by the Nazis during World War II.  It deals with different groups of people from different classes and their sometimes selfish ‘looking after number one’ attitude when faced with great trauma.  It also  with the really interesting issue of the relationships between the French and their occupiers, from hatred to love.  It also reminds of the fact that many German soldiers were just ordinary people who had been forced into terrible situation.

The  most fascinating aspect of the novel itself is the fact that in reality Nemirovsky was a French Jew who eventually died in Auschwitz.  The novel consists of two parts of an  originally planned five part novel.   She left the notebook containing the book with her older daughter who because of the horrific circumstances of the death of her mother and thinking it was a diary, was not able to look at it for many years and so she did not even realise it was a manuscript for a book.  What is particularly heartbreaking in   of the book is the story of how after the liberation of the concentration camps, Nemirovsky’s two  daughters went to wait daily at the Gare de L’Est with signs around their necks with their names on to wait for the return of their parents which never happened.

This is an amazing book on many levels and reminds us of the horrors of the war but in an extremely readable way.



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6 responses to “Irene Nemirovsky – Suite Francaise

  1. “In her increasing isolation and danger, Némirovsky had good reason to understand the psychology of collaboration. (…) (E)ven in its incomplete form Suite Française is one of those rare books that demands to be read.” – Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

  2. “Suite Française, even in this truncated form, is a magnificent work that its readers will cherish for as long as they still care about the art of fiction or the history of Europe. Even more astonishing, given its heroically large themes and the desperate circumstances of its composition, this is no gloomy elegy but a scintillating panorama of a people in crisis — witty, satirical, romantic, waspish and gorgeously lyrical by turns. ” – Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

  3. “I must say that neither ‘Storm in June’ nor ‘Dolce’ seems to me to work satisfactorily as a novel. ” – Dan Jacobson, London Review of Books

  4. Vicki Gowans

    We read this at our book group and it was universally admired. I do think the fact behind the fiction makes it even more compelling reading.

  5. Charlotte Gillam

    I read this on your recommendation and loved it – have you read any of her other books?

    • No, none. I was under the impression that it was a classic and the rest might not be as good as this one, could be wrong though. Might have to have a go.

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