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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
7,281264487 (3.97)1 / 584
  1. 30
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (albavirtual)
  2. 30
    War and Peace by Léon Tolstoï (chrisharpe)
  3. 52
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (Queenofcups)
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    Life and Fate by Vassili Grossman (chrisharpe)
  5. 20
    The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich (albavirtual)
  6. 10
    The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: Both are very powerful books about German-occupied France during WWII and the role of women.
  7. 10
    A Princess in Berlin by Arthur R. G. Solmssen (albavirtual)
  8. 10
    Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel (alalba)
    alalba: Two books about occupied France during WWII
  9. 10
    Résistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France by Agnès Humbert (LisaCurcio)
  10. 11
    Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both are novels that take place in Nazi-occupied France during WWII.
  11. 00
    Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (bookwormjules)
  12. 00
    A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Marta Hillers (VenusofUrbino)
  13. 11
    All Our Worldly Goods by Irène Némirovsky (KimB)
  14. 11
    The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy (Yervant)
    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)
  15. 00
    The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck (chrisharpe)
  16. 01
    To Siberia by Per Petterson (TeeKay)
  17. 02
    Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: Nothing to do with France or WWII, but in many ways a similar, acutely observed portrait of village life, with an especially keen eye on the bourgeois class.

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Showing 1-5 of 232 (next | show all)
This uncompleted “suite” about WWII France shows a variety of French citizens in Paris and small villages as the Germans invade and then occupy France. The French weren’t all heroes. Some were selfish, some were generous. Nemirosvsky portrays the French as individuals. As I read it I felt that this was really what life was like. When you read the story of the author’s life during World War II the story has even more meaning. ( )
  brangwinn | Apr 14, 2015 |
I've had this book on my shelf for years. And I mean double digit years. In an effort to “Love My Shelf”and finally lay my eyes upon these deserving oldies (but goodies), I finally dislodged this one from its mighty place and cracked it open. It was a good read, but not fantastic, and if I had to, I would likely rate it 3 out of 5 stars.

This is not a completed novel, but rather two works-in-progress, as others have mentioned. What follows then is two short stories that, while complete in their plot, lack some character development and general polish. The first story tells of several families of Parisians, who, in an effort to escape the incoming German invasion of Paris, flee into the countryside. Nemirovsky portrays aristocrats as well as working class citizens in great detail. It is interesting to watch these various families try to flee to safety, and the obstacles in their path to getting there. The second story tells about a village that houses a regiment of German soldiers and how that creates problems and even love!

But what was missing from this collection was a sense of the impending doom that the characters were supposedly fleeing. Both stories reflect Parisian thought and realities during WW2 and the invasion. But I never felt I was reading a war story. There was no urgency. The characters went about their lives as if living in a wartime was not stressful. There was some discussion of mental anguish, but it wasn’t flushed out enough for me to get a sense that these people were frightened, sad, stressed, or anxious about their lots in life.

Perhaps that was Nemirovsky’s reality. Perhaps she watched from afar. But the war touched her, because she was eventually captured and taken to Auschwitz where she was killed. I felt that if the stories had a bit more meat to them, they would have easily held my attention for a 5 out of 5 rating. It’s unfortunate that the world lost Nemirovsky before she had time to properly publish these works. I have a feeling I would have loved them.
( )
  Shiraloo | Mar 25, 2015 |
Absolutely stunning. The prose reminded me of Virginia Woolf and the epic scope of Tolstoy. An important book, not only for the backstory but for the questions it raises and the ability of the author to see how we are all connected, how cause and effect impact each other during war. ( )
  Ginnywoolf | Mar 22, 2015 |
Some novels leave me almost mute with admiration. This is one such book; I feel I can’t possibly do justice to the extraordinary power of this narrative. Written in 1941, not long before Nѐmirovsky was arrested and murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz, Suite Francaise depicts the realities for people living in France under occupation. Of course, one of the things which make it so extraordinary is that it was written while these events were taking place. It is for me, every bit a chronicle of those desperate, frightening times, as it is a brilliant novel.

Suite Francaise is made up of two novellas – linked very slightly – the only two completed parts of a projected four part sequence that Nѐmirovsky had planned to write. The first – Storm in June – is the brilliant depiction of the flight of a disparate group of Parisians on the eve of the German invasion. The second part – Dolce is set in a small French provincial town, occupied by German soldiers who take up residence in the homes of the people they are now the conquerors of.

“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. Everyone looked at their house and thought, “Tomorrow it will be in ruins, tomorrow I’ll have nothing left.”

In the opening section of Suite Francaise, the citizens of Paris are under threat, the Germans are advancing and the air is thick with rumour and pessimism. The Pѐricands are an old, traditional family, cultivated Catholics, the eldest of their five children is a priest. They are a family used to a certain way of life, and Madame Pѐricand is quite proud of their position, though suspicious of France’s government. While their son Father Phillippe Pѐricand accompanies a group of troubled, teenage, orphan boys out of the city, the rest of the Pѐricand family leave by car. Gabriel Corte is a writer, a cruel, selfish womaniser, determined to preserve his manuscripts, and get out of the city with his mistress Florence.

parisexodusThe Michauds are a middle aged couple both employed by the same bank, they live in a small apartment, although they aren’t wealthy, they are loyal employees, devoted to each other, their only son Jean-Marie is away at the front. When their employer promises to take them with him, by car, to Tours to new bank premises, they are relieved. However their employer’s mistress demands a seat in the car, and the Michauds are left to take their chance on alternative arrangements. With the Paris streets emptying fast, obtaining a seat on a train is no easy task, and so the Michauds join the scores of people leaving on foot. Charles Langelet is a wealthy man with a heart condition, an art collector he is surrounded by beautiful things, things he is loath to leave behind. Langelet also takes to the road out of Paris, joining the hoards already crowding the roads out of Paris. Each of these people face changing fortunes and through their exodus we see the selfishness’, fears and compromises that are brought about by extreme and unusual circumstances. Everyone is revealed in their very humanness, for good or ill.

“He hated the war; it threatened much more than his lifestyle or peace of mind. It continually destroyed the world of the imagination, the only world where he felt happy.”

In the second section – Dolce, the small town of Bussy await the arrival of their conquerors. There is grief and humiliation at France’s defeat, everything is changing and yet so much remains the same. Life must go on, food must be bought and cooked, babies fed, and farms continue to be managed as of old. In the Angellier household Lucile Angellier – wife of a prisoner of war and her bitter, grieving mother-in-law await the officer who will be staying in their home – they have no say in the matter. Theirs is the best house in Bussy and so they will be playing host to the commander. Lucile has not been happy with her unfaithful husband, and her mother-in-law – certain her daughter-in-law in unworthy of her beloved son – resents any pleasure Lucile might find in anything, wanting her to grieve and suffer as she does. When he arrives, Bruno von Falk is young, handsome, an accomplished musician, Lucile recognises that he is a man – like any other, he misses his home and his wife, longs for his overdue leave like any other soldier. Lucile is drawn to von Falk – trying to shield her blooming friendship from the stern and disapproving gaze of her mother-in-law.

Nearby lives Madeleine Sabarie – a young married woman with a young baby, her husband Benoît an escaped prisoner of war, is back working on their farm. Madeleine can’t forget Jean-Marie Michaud the handsome, cultured young man that had hid out at the farm for several weeks before her marriage. She still smooths out the sheets on the bed where he had slept; her husband is nothing like him. The Sabaries too, are to play host to a German officer, and when Bonnet arrives Madeleine is not averse to playing up a bit to the attention he pays her. Benoît is a jealous, unsophisticated man, trouble is sure to follow.

In the midst of war and under occupation, love and friendship can be found in surprising places, and when Benoît Sabarie acts recklessly and murderously, it is to Lucile Angellier that his wife turns to for help. This Dolce section ends in 1941 with the German invasion of The Soviet Union, the German soldiers who have lived among the town’s inhabitants for three months move out, and there is a brief lull as the town await new men who will take their place.

“They’re going!
For several days they had been waiting for the Germans to leave. The soldiers themselves had announced it: they were being sent to Russia. When the French heard the news, they looked at them with curiosity (‘Are they happy? Worried? Will they win or lose?’). As for the Germans, they tried to work out what the French were thinking: Were they happy to see them go? Did they secretly wish they’d all get killed? Did anyone feel sorry for them? Would they miss them? Of course they wouldn’t be missed as Germans, as conquerors (they weren’t naïve enough to think that), but would the French miss these Pauls, Siegfreds, Oswalds who had lived under their roofs for three months, showed them pictures of their wives and mothers, shared more than one bottle of wine with them? But both the French and the Germans remained inscrutable; they were polite, careful of what they said – ‘Well, that’s war… We can’t do anything about it…right?”

One of the most astonishing things for me is that despite what was happening around her, and presumably knowing that she was under threat herself, Nemirovsky was capable of seeing the German soldier as a human being, a man, not just the enemy. She understood the strains put upon people under unparalleled circumstances, and the differences and sympathies that inevitably exist between two groups of people, even when one group is the conquered and one the conqueror.

It is one of the miracles of publishing that this novel came to be published at all – apparently lost – lying unread in a notebook belonging to Irene Nѐmirovsky in her eldest daughter’s possession. This edition contains in Appendixes – Nѐmirovsky’s notes for the remainder of the sequence that she tragically didn’t live to write. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Feb 15, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 232 (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)
"Jeg tror ikke jeg noen gang har vært presentert for en så stor samling mennesker skildret så susende godt. Beretningen er rett og slett makeløs." - Yngvar Ustvedt, VG

Da Irène Némirovsky, en av 1930-årenes mest kjente franske forfattere, grep pennen i 1941, var det for å skrive en roman som skulle bli mer enn en krigsskildring. Hun så krigen som et middel for å nå frem til det innerste i mennesket - og planla sitt litterære storverk: en suite med fire deler. Némirovsky rakk å fullføre de to første, og gjemte manuskriptet i en koffert like før hun ble deportert til Auschwitz, der hun døde i 1942. Like etter led hennes mann samme skjebne. De to døtrene fikk berget kofferten, men det gikk mange år før de orket å lese. Først i 2004 ble boken utgitt i Frankrike og i 2006 kom den på norsk.

Romanens to deler - Storm i juni og Dolce - følger flere familiers og enkeltpersoners strabaser og skjebner, og bindes sammen med toneart og stemninger; temaer og karakterer som går igjen. Her skildres arroganse, dobbeltmoral, likefremhet, kurtise og jærlighet ... Boken åpner med flukten fra Paris i juni 1940,preget av redsel, uvisshet, bombing og mangel på bensin og mat. I Dolce skildres livet i en okkupert landsby, der hverdagen med tyskerne har tatt over.

"Gjennom hele romanen kan leseren fryde seg over skarpe iakttakelser og klare, presise karakteristikker av menneskelig dårskap og jåleri, men også fine, sjenerøse portretter av menneskelig mot og offervilje." - Turid Larsen, Dagsavisen

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Irène Némirovskyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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
First words
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)

» see all 15 descriptions

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