Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky


Irene Nemirovsky was a Russian who fled to France during the revolution and became a respected author.  With the German invasion of France, she was again under threat, and in 1942 was arrested as a stateless Jew and died in Auschwitz.  Her husband was arrested shortly after she was and also was killed by the Nazis.  Their two daughters survived through efforts of many people and were moved around and hidden during the war years.  The year before her death she began a monumental novel, Suite Francaise.  We  have two parts of the planned five part book.  The existence of the manuscript itself is miraculous; her daughter Denise managed to carry it with her during those chaotic war years.  The first part of the book, called Storm, describes the fleeing of various people from Paris when the Germans invade and the second describes life in a small village in occupied France.   The episodic nature of Storm made it  more bearable, without losing its impact, while Dolce has a much more detailed, complete story.  Her diary also survived, which gives a more complete picture of her intentions.

While she clearly was portraying archetypal French people, the reactions of those fleeing Paris struck me as the universal reaction to chaos.  I felt the same way about the people in the village; their views of the invaders and how they changed from being the embodiment of the killers of the villagers’ loved ones to being individuals is an old story.

Even without know the very compelling story of the book, I loved it as it exists on its own.  A much appreciated loan from Mary Susan.

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