Irène Némirovsky was brought up in St. Petersburg, Russia by a French governess, becoming completely fluent in the French language. She also learned to speak Yiddish, Finnish, Polish, and English. Following the Russian Revolution, the family lived for a year in Finland and then moved to Paris. Irène attended the Sorbonne and started writing fiction at about age 18. In 1926, she married Michel Epstein, a banker, with whom she had two daughters: Denise, born in 1929; and Élisabeth, born in 1937. In 1929, Irène published David Golder, her first novel, which was an immediate success and was adapted into a film in 1930. That same year, her novel Le Bal was published and became a play and a movie.
Today Irène Némirovsky is best-remembered for her unfinished book entitled Suite Française, two novellas written during the start of the German Occupation of France in World War II as it was happening. Despite having converted to Catholicism, Irène Némirovsky was arrested and deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz, where she died of typhus at 39 years of age. Her husband died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Their daughter Denise was able to keep the notebook containing the manuscript for Suite Française, but did not read it for 50 years, thinking it was her mother's private journal. However, in the late 1990s, she made arrangements to donate her mother's papers to a French archive and decided to examine the notebook. Upon discovering what it contained, she had it published in France, where it became a bestseller in 2004.