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Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

Suite Française (2004)

by Irène Némirovsky

Other authors: Denise Epstein (Editor), Olivier Rubinstein (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,359305600 (3.97)1 / 668
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    Yervant: Both works focus on German occupation during World War II, one in France, the other in Guernsey. The storyline of a local woman falling in love with a German occupier is also a common thread, (though more successful and believable in my opinion in Nemirovsky's work than in Leroy's.)… (more)
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English (272)  Spanish (11)  Italian (7)  Swedish (3)  Norwegian (3)  French (3)  Catalan (2)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (303)
Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)
This is an unfinished novel in two parts (originally meant to be in 5 parts), written by a Russian woman of Jewish background, who had been living in France as a Catholic for a number of years. Nemirovsky was killed in Auschwitz in 1942 before she could finish the book.

The novel focuses on regular people in France during WWII. In the first part of the book, people are being evacuated from Paris. They later return, only to have to share their homes with German soldiers.

The book was o.k., but I really only found one small storyline particularly interesting... really one character. There were a lot of characters, but because the book wasn't holding my attention, I couldn't really keep them straight. The only reason it is getting 3 stars is for that one storyline. There was a note at the end of the book about Nemirovsky's own life, which to be honest, I found more interesting than most of the rest of the book. ( )
  LibraryCin | Apr 3, 2019 |
I've been meaning to read this for years, but have never made the time. When the English translation first came out I was captivated by the cover, an almost too-perfect classic photograph, distinctly French and romantic.

'Suite Française' is not a love story, though it might have turned into one if it had been allowed to be finished. By themselves, the two linked novels "Storm in June" and "Dolce" would be marvels as portraits of occupied France: honest, severe, but without judgment; all written, by the way, as it was happening. Two appendices and the preface to the original French edition are added, which give us the notes for Némirovsky's planned third novel of the suite, "Captivity", letters written by herself and her husband, and a biography that gives dimension to the conditions under which 'Suite Française' was written, and tell how they died and how their daughters, and the manuscript, survived.

There have been allegations of the author's antisemitism with the evidence being her family's conversion to Catholicism in 1939, and the desperate letters written by her husband after her arrest detailing her lack of sympathy for the Jews as reasons to free her from a concentration camp. I saw in those only desperation and the willingness to do whatever it takes to survive and protect their family.

Némirovsky's vision was remarkable, she had a thousand page novel planned, with various points depending on how news turned out, if and when the war ever ended. What she had finished she had plans to edit further, details to correct, and always the admonition to not portray those who influence events, to focus on the everyday, and the closing ranks of the greedy, and fearful, over noble heroics.

The prose is lovely, and her careful outlining of chapters shows through, juxtaposing the mundane with greater outside events - I point to the chapter on the cat Albert's prowling in the moonlight - to bring the readers attention always back to the humanity of these events. Némirovsky writes with a broad scope but we never lose sight of the single points of life amidst the millions affected.

This, along with 'Apartment in Athens', are the only two World War II novels that I've read that were written while the war was going on; my copy of 'Apartment' comes with a note from the author promising that the book was printed well within rationing guidelines. Both of them give incredible insight into the horrors of war, and the more insidious dangers of wartime occupation, but 'Suite Française' is by necessity the more immediate novel. And, given the author's situation, remarkably even-handed with the Germans.

Beautifully done. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Set in France, this book is in two parts. Part one - Storm in June - depicts the panicked evacuation of Paris and the surrounding area as France surrenders and the Germans occupy. Part two - Dolce - depicts life in a small rural town during the German occupation. Part one is tense and rushed and there are bombs and planes and people dying. Part two is calm, quiet, but with a sense that life could go on just as it is forever. I thought that the endless calm of occupation was just as gut wrenching as the tension and fear of the first part. Most of the characters are unrelated, or only vaguely intersect. While this makes the flow of the story choppy, as a device it enhances the sense of uncertainty and the randomness of events. I thought this book was more of a study of human nature; how beliefs translate into action or inaction and how humans respond to stress, than a story of actual people or of the War specifically. ( )
  nittnut | Sep 5, 2018 |
This is a re-read of this re-discovered masterpiece of the Nazi occupation of France, after watching the very good film version last weekend. Even before the war, Irene Nemirovsky had led an interesting life. Born in Russia in 1903, the daughter of an upper middle class Jewish businessman, her family fled to France after the Bolshevik revolution. From an early age, she showed great gifts as a writer for creating realistic characters, with detailed background and motivations. She produced a number of novels in the 1920s and 30s, married and had two daughters. Suite Francaise was written in secret in tiny handwriting in a leather-bound notebook, never (of course) published under the Nazi occupation, and not rediscovered until 1998 when her daughter Diane Epstein felt able to open that old notebook. Irene had intended this work to be a five part saga, detailing the whole experiences of the French people under Nazi occupation, but was only able to complete two parts, Storm in June and Dolce, before the Nazis came for her. She quickly died in Auschwitz in August 1942, followed by her husband, who had frantically tried to find her, gassed on arrival in the death camp three months later. The police came for their daughters also, but neighbours were able to hide them and pass them to safety (after the war, Irene's mother refused to have anything to do with her own orphaned granddaughters).

What is amazing about this work is the author's observation of the minutiae of the lives and outlooks of her characters and the places they live. Storm in June concerns the experiences of five families or sets of individuals, all unknown to each other, as they flee Paris after the Nazi blitzkrieg brings the invaders to the gates of the capital with dizzying speed. The sense of desperation of these internal refugees fleeing along the roads with their possessions, strafed by enemy bombing, is powerful. Many of them show their worst side, becoming selfish and even inhuman towards people outside their immediate circle, in their desperation. Only the Michauds, a quiet couple working for bank, emerge well from this desperate period. Dolce is, as its name suggests, a more peaceful and slower moving part, set in the countryside. A German officer is billeted on the Langellier house, consisting of young Lucile and her mother in law, absent Lucile's husband, Gaston. Their differing reactions to the presence of the charming and attentive German officer represent in microcosm the differing reactions of members of French society, feeling natural hostility against those who have invaded their country and taken away their menfolk, while needing to reach an accommodation with their new masters to continue a tolerable life. These tensions are laid bare in numerous small and large incidents affecting this small family and other villagers, reflecting the clash between the great struggles of the outside world and the petty struggles of daily personal life. This is a magnificent novel, and we are very lucky Diane Epstein opened that old notebook of her mother's twenty years ago. The novel is supplemented by the preface to the original French edition, plus appendices detailing the author's thought processes behind the planning of the saga and, most poignantly, letters to and from her and her husband as they struggle to preserve their quality of life and then their physical lives. ( )
  john257hopper | Sep 1, 2018 |

I read half of this when it was first published in English, and lost it to a library queue. I started over, needless to say.

This story is incredible. That she was writing it essentially as it was occurring is more amazing. The story of the manuscript's survival is amazing (her elder daughter carried it with her in hiding in France, thinking it was a diary, not a manuscript). The notes she wrote about the rest of her planned 5-book work are so enticing. But of course she did not get to finish, being arrested just a day after her previous notes on the next book. And obviously she was not able to help refine the manuscript for publication. Yet it flows and is fascinating--though she clearly set out her goals in her many notes.
The first book, Storm in June, captures the many classes of people fleeing 1942 Paris for the countryside as the Germans are coming. We meet members of several different families--rich and poor, upper middle and working classes. Each have their own concerns: their stuff, their children, food.

The second book, Dolce, examines the people in a small occupied French town. Most families have German soldiers living with them, many of husbands and sons who are POWs in Germany. The balance everyone tries to strike between French/German is tenuous. The balance between upper class rich landowners, landowner/farmers, farmers, and tradesmen adds an additional layer of loyalties (or not) to the book. Some of the characters from book 1 are mentioned.

If Nemirovsky had been able to finish her 5 books, we would have seen the same characters loop back into the story. Her notes are interesting, as she did not yet know where the story would go--it depended on what was happening in the actual war. Book 3 was beginning to take shape in her mind, but does not appear to have been begun.
Nemirovsky was a well-known and well-regarded French writer before the war. Those earlier books may be worth looking for. ( )
  Dreesie | Aug 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)
Irène Némirovsky wanted Suite Française to be a five-book cycle about the occupation of France, but only completed a draft of two books before the Nazis sent her to Auschwitz, and to the gas chambers, in 1942. Her manuscript was lost in a basement for sixty years until her daughter, who had been pursued by Nazis through the French countryside as a child, discovered and published it. And now, impossibly, we can read the two books of Suite Française.
Less a Wheel than a Wave
added by MikeBriggs | editLondon Review of Books, Dan Jacobson (pay site) (May 11, 2006)
French critics hailed "Suite Française" as a masterpiece when it was first published there in 2004. They weren't exaggerating. The writing is accomplished, the plotting sure, and the fact that Némirovsky could write about events like the fall of Paris with such assurance and irony just weeks after they occurred is nothing short of astonishing.
THIS stunning book contains two narratives, one fictional and the other a fragmentary, factual account of how the fiction came into being. "Suite Française" itself consists of two novellas portraying life in France from June 4, 1940, as German forces prepare to invade Paris, through July 1, 1941, when some of Hitler's occupying troops leave France to join the assault on the Soviet Union.
added by krazy4katz | editNew York Times, Paul Gray (Apr 9, 2006)
El descubrimiento de un manuscrito perdido de Irène Némirovsky causó una auténtica conmoción en el mundo editorial francés y europeo. Novela excepcional escrita en condiciones excepcionales, Suite francesa retrata con maestría una época fundamental de la Europa del siglo XX. En otoño de 2004 le fue concedido el premio Renaudot, otorgado por primera vez a un autor fallecido. Imbuida de un claro componente autobiográfico, Suite francesa se inicia en París los días previos a la invasión alemana, en un clima de incertidumbre e incredulidad. Enseguida, tras las primeras bombas, miles de familias se lanzan a las carreteras en coche, en bicicleta o a pie. Némirovsky dibuja con precisión las escenas, unas conmovedoras y otras grotescas, que se suceden en el camino: ricos burgueses angustiados, amantes abandonadas, ancianos olvidados en el viaje, los bombardeos sobre la población indefensa, las artimañas para conseguir agua, comida y gasolina. A medida que los alemanes van tomando posesión del país, se vislumbra un desmoronamiento del orden social imperante y el nacimiento de una nueva época. La presencia de los invasores despertará odios, pero también historias de amor clandestinas y públicas muestras de colaboracionismo. Concebida como una composición en cinco partes —de las cuales la autora sólo alcanzó a escribir dos— Suite francesa combina un retrato intimista de la burguesía ilustrada con una visión implacable de la sociedad francesa durante la ocupación. Con lucidez, pero también con un desasosiego notablemente exento de sentimentalismo, Némirovsky muestra el fiel reflejo de una sociedad que ha perdido su rumbo. El tono realista y distante de Némirovsky le permite componer una radiografía fiel del país que la ha abandonado a su suerte y la ha arrojado en manos de sus verdugos. Estamos pues ante un testimonio profundo y conmovedor de la condición humana, escrito sin la facilidad de la distancia ni la perspectiva del tiempo, por alguien que no llegó a conocer siquiera el final del cataclismo que le tocó vivir.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Irène Némirovskyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Epstein, DeniseEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rubinstein, OlivierEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anissimov, MyriamForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bigliosi, CinziaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Frausin Guarino, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oreskes, DanielNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenblat, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sarkar, ManikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, SandraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I dedicate this novel to the memory of my mother and father, to my sister Elisabeth Gille, to my children and grandchildren, and to everyone who has felt and continues to feel the tragedy of intolerance. Denise Epstein
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Hot, thought the Parisians.
Important events–whether serious, happy or unfortunate–do not change a man's soul, they merely bring it into relief, just as a strong gust of wind reveals the true shape of a tree when it blows off all the leaves.
Everything withdrew back into the night: the songs, the murmur of kisses, the soft brightness of the stars, the footsteps of the conqueror on the pavement and the sigh of the thirsty frog praying to the heavens for rain, in vain.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099488787, Paperback)

In 1941, Irene Nemirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. Nemirovsky's death in Auschwitz in 1942 prevented her from seeing the day, sixty-five years later, that the existing two sections of her planned novel sequence, Suite Francaise, would be rediscovered and hailed as a masterpiece. Set during the year that France fell to the Nazis, Suite Francaise falls into two parts. The first is a brilliant depiction of a group of Parisians as they flee the Nazi invasion; the second follows the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation. Suite Francaise is a novel that teems with wonderful characters struggling with the new regime. However, amidst the mess of defeat, and all the hypocrisy and compromise, there is hope. True nobility and love exist, but often in surprising places.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:23 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940, this books tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way; a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food, a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy -- in their town, their homes, even in their hearts. -- Back Cover… (more)

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2 editions of this book were published by HighBridge.

Editions: 1598870203, 1615730419

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