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Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
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Suite Française (2004)

by Irène Némirovsky

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

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,191261495 (3.97)1 / 576
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    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (albavirtual)
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    Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel (alalba)
    alalba: Two books about occupied France during WWII
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    Résistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France by Agnès Humbert (LisaCurcio)
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    A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Marta Hillers (VenusofUrbino)
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    The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck (chrisharpe)
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    All Our Worldly Goods by Irène Némirovsky (KimB)
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    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)
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    SqueakyChu: Both are novels that take place in Nazi-occupied France during WWII.
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    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 228 (next | show all)
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 |
A ridiculous, sentimental cover for an unsentimental novel that was published posthumously. Nemirovsky's voice is surprisingly witty and tough as nails; heartbreaking that she would never have a chance to finish her French suite-- she died in Auschwitz at the age of 39.

This is the most honest book I've read that looks at the lives of women during wartime. Nemirovsky romanticizes nothing. ( )
1 vote megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
41. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (397 page e-book, Read July 9-22)

Instead of the book in mind I have the introduction from the French edition by Myriam Anissimov (which is at the very end in my Kindle Edition), and then the journal notes Nemirovsky wrote as she wrote the book, where, somewhat awkwardly, we read things she almost certainly never intended to share, her private thoughts on how the book would evolve, including the parts she was never able to write.

But before all that I read the terrific first two parts of a projected four or five part, 1000 page novel, one Nemirovsky saw as an effort toward a masterpiece. With vivid, and often hysterical characters, she chastises all ranks of Parisians for what is exposed as they flee Paris in front of the German invasion in 1939. This is easy reading, but fun and striking. In the second section she writes of occupation with the same penetrating depth of observation, but with a sincerity that rises above the humor.

I wonder what to make of the sum total, this window in France under German occupation, unfinished because the author was exterminated. This is not a political work. There is nothing Jewish in the novel, and there is nothing inhumane about the Germans. They are merely flawed young men, soldiers. It is a very human book, and it does, as she hoped it would, reach something timeless. This book is as good now as it would have been in 1942, or will be to one who, in some future somewhere, won't have any clear notion of this world war. ( )
2 vote dchaikin | Jul 22, 2014 |
I wanted to like this, but found the audio wasn't holding my attention or interest. I stuck with it for a bit and got a little over halfway through before giving up. This is one that I've been wanting to read for years, and I might try it again with the actual book. But for now, the audio goes on the gave up shelf. ( )
  ashleyk44 | Jul 8, 2014 |
What a beautiful book and how sad that it wasn't finished. This unfinished novel was published in 2006 but was written by Nemirovsky during WWII. Nemirovsky was a Russian Jew who had converted to Catholicism and lived her whole adult life in France after her family fled the Bolshevik revolution. She was arrested and ended up being taken to Auschwitz and killed there. The manuscript for this book was saved by her daughter who was hidden by family friends during the war. The book is two complete parts of a novel that was intended to be 4 or 5 parts in total.

I was afraid that the back story of this novel would overshadow any merits of the writing, but I didn't find this to be the case. I really loved the characters, writing, and description of events. The first part is about the arrival of the Germans in France and the fleeing of the French. The second part explores the occupation and relationships between the French and the German soldiers in one small country village. Unfortunately, the two sections deal mainly with a different set of characters that are only partially connected. You can see how she intended to draw them all together, but it is in no way a completed work. This 369 page book should be a highly readable 1000 page novel. I thought is was pretty amazing that she was writing this as events were unfolding. When you read her diary entries that are included in an appendix, they drive home the point that this woman didn't know how the war would end while she was writing the book. It's hard to remember that since we know Germany lost in the end, but when she was writing this living in occupied France, that must have seemed hard to imagine. ( )
  japaul22 | Jun 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 228 (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)
 

» 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
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Hot, thought the Parisians.
Quotations
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:01 -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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