Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky: 3/12/09

Suite Francaise Suite Francaise
by Irene Nemirovsky

Nemirovsky’s story of war and occupation impressed our group. Her writing skill was formidable, especially when considering the fact that the work is incomplete, interrupted by her arrest and eventual murder in a Nazi camp. Several were struck by the author’s vivid descriptions of nature – life going on about its business on breathtakingly beautiful days at the same time that the war and its horrors took over the lives of the people of France. DS was reminded of another image of terror with a beautiful backdrop closer to all of us – planes flying into towers on a crisp fall day.

We were charmed by Nemirovsky’s humorous view of her characters, most of whom were shown in quite a critical light. We wondered that this book about the German occupation of France – written by a woman with Jewish heritage – has no Jewish characters or even a reference to the Jews.
There is quite a contrast between the two parts of the novel; the first full of the frenzy and chaos of displacement, the second slowing to the languid tension of occupation in the countryside. Nemirovsky has given us a stunning exploration of the intimate, complex relations between occupied and occupier.

The appendices are almost as interesting as the rest of the book, giving us insight into the author’s process and plans for her characters, and providing a heartbreaking record of her husband’s efforts to find her and free her after her arrest.

I highly recommend CD’s comment below, written in response to several members’ request for his reaction to this book. He brings a writer’s perspective to our discussions, and people were curious to hear his thoughts about this book in particular, which is unfinished and accompanied by the author’s notes. He hadn’t finished the book before our meeting, so he wrote on the blog.

Book club members also recommend Nemirovsky’s other novel, Fire in the Blood, and the nonfiction Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.

Irene Nemirovsky
Irene Nemirovsky
Irene Nemirovsky New York Times Book Review
More about Nemirovsky and “Suite Francaise”:
Irene and her daughters
  • For more articles on Nemirovsky and her writing, try Infotrac Onefile, available at the library, or from home (with a Minuteman Library Network card).