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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
9,976345769 (3.97)1 / 729
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)
  1. 60
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (albavirtual)
  2. 50
    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both books take place in France during the Second World War.
  3. 72
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (Queenofcups)
  4. 40
    War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (chrisharpe)
  5. 40
    The Diary of Anne Frank: A Play in Two Acts by Frances Goodrich (albavirtual)
  6. 20
    Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (chrisharpe)
  7. 10
    A Princess in Berlin by Arthur R. G. Solmssen (albavirtual)
  8. 10
    Resistance: A Frenchwoman's Journal of the War by Agnès Humbert (LisaCurcio)
  9. 10
    Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel (alalba)
    alalba: Two books about occupied France during WWII
  10. 21
    Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Both are novels that take place in Nazi-occupied France during WWII.
  11. 00
    The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck (chrisharpe)
  12. 11
    The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (pdebolt)
    pdebolt: Both are very powerful books about German-occupied France during WWII and the role of women.
  13. 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)
  14. 00
    A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Marta Hillers (VenusofUrbino)
  15. 11
    All Our Worldly Goods by Irène Némirovsky (KimB)
  16. 00
    Yellow Tapers for Paris by Bruce Marshall (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Both are fiction, written during and/or immediately after the occupation and showing significant reflection.
  17. 01
    To Siberia by Per Petterson (TeeKay)
  18. 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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» See also 729 mentions

English (303)  Spanish (13)  Italian (10)  French (5)  Catalan (3)  Swedish (3)  Norwegian (3)  German (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (343)
Showing 1-5 of 303 (next | show all)
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky is a brilliant but sadly unfinished tale set in occupied France in the first years of the Second World War. Nemirovsky, who was Jewish, was killed in a concentration camp having only written two of her five planned novels.

The first book follows several Parisians on the days after France falls to the Germans, and the general exodus from the capital city ahead of the arrival of German troops. The second book is set in an occupied agricultural village where a regiment of German soldiers is billeted, and tells of the relationship between the conquerers and the villagers. It is a beautifully detailed story, full of description, so vivid that I could, with ease, picture characters and homes and fields throughout, which only increased the attraction of the book.

Although the novel is classified as historical fiction, I think that is important to remember that it was written during the Second World War and is probably very close to fact, given that Nemirovsky lived in Paris when France was invaded by Germany. There is undoubtedly verisimillitude in the intricate tales, and first-hand knowledge of the availabilty of food and the conditions of the people taking part in the general panicked rush from Paris to the countryside. Although it is lively fiction, it is also partly historical document, and a lot can be learned from it.

I really loved this book. It was a slow read, as the novel unfolds gradually, and because I had such a busy week without much time to read, I kept having to go back a few pages to figure out what was going on when I'd put the book down two days ago. I became very attached to some of the characters, particularly the Michauds and Lucile. This is a book that I will read again, and which I will recommend to others. ( )
  ahef1963 | May 4, 2024 |
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

-Print: COPYRIGHT: April 11, 2006; PUBLISHER: Knopf; Translation edition; ISBN 978-1400044733; PAGES 416; Unabridged (Amazon Hardcover info)
-Digital: COPYRIGHT: April 11, 2006; PUBLISHER: Vintage; Translation edition; ISBN 1400044731; PAGES: 448; Unabridged (info from: Amazon: Kindle edition)
*Audio: COPYRIGHT: July 16, 2013; PUBLISHER: Random House Audio; DURATION: 13 hrs., 13 mins.; Unabridged (INFO FROM Amazon/Audible)
Feature Film or tv: Not that I’m aware of.


-How I picked it: I can’t recall where I saw this that prompted me to get it with one of our credits from Audible. I tend to like books about France and WWII. 😊
-What’s it about? There are two stories. The first begins with a description of France and its citizens, before then zeroing in on a few of them who are reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that they must flee, as the Germans are invading. In fact, at this point, are right on their heels. It tells of the desperation of flight-of suddenly having nothing, and no means to remedy that; of classes of people crashing together in distrust and prejudice. The second story seems to be a continuation, after some passage of time, but only includes one family from the previous story, which had been much more incidental in that previous story. This family’s village is occupied and the family is forced to accommodate a German soldier resident, as have many other villagers—most of the citizens are farmers, but our primary family is a landowner (although with all of the unfamiliar French names, I got a little confused as to who was who at times.).
-Liked: I thought the stories were well plotted, and liked a couple of characters. I don’t think I was expected to like most of them.
-Disliked: I don’t care for tragic stories where nearly everyone is at one another’s throats.
-Overall: I understand that the author was actually Jewish. Irène Némirovsky was apparently a Ukrainian-born Russian living in France when she began working on these novellas, which apparently were parts 1 and 2, of what was intended to be 5 parts. She was, however captured by the Nazis with her husband (daughters, I believe were living elsewhere and thus, with the manuscript, survived) to Auschwitz, where she died. I read a review that complained that the author had not mentioned Jews in the stories. Given her situation, I personally wouldn’t fault her for that, and am less certain than the complainer that she’d excluded Jews from the tale. Perhaps they were there and just not identified as such.
So, I can imagine that these stories were born from her experience, and I can’t fault her for having so few honorable or truly good characters. One would like to think that people would come together in such dire times, to help one-another, but it’s probably more “normal” to fear for one’s own chances at survival, and be stingy, or greedy, on that premise. Still, personally, I don’t read books to find “normal” stingy greedy examples of the human race, so I just can’t say I liked these stories. I suspect the author may have intended to bring us around to happier conditions, and somehow rectify the dearth of likable characters, but as it stands, there’s just not enough of a sense of honor here for me.

AUTHOR: (From Wikipedia) “Irène Némirovsky (French: [iʁɛn nemiʁɔfski]; 11 February 1903 – 17 August 1942) was a novelist of Ukrainian Jewish origin who was born in Kiev, then in the Russian Empire. She lived more than half her life in France, and wrote in French, but was denied French citizenship. Arrested as a Jew under the racial laws – which did not take into account her conversion to Roman Catholicism[1][2] – she was murdered in Auschwitz at the age of 39. Némirovsky is best known for the posthumously published Suite française.."
(From Goodreads/Penguin Random House) “Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 into a successful banking family. Trapped in Moscow by the Russian Revolution, she and her family fled first to a village in Finland, and eventually to France, where she attended the Sorbonne.
Irène Némirovsky achieved early success as a writer: her first novel, David Golder, published when she was twenty-six, was a sensation. By 1937 she had published nine further books and David Golder had been made into a film; she and her husband Michel Epstein, a bank executive, moved in fashionable social circles.
When the Germans occupied France in 1940, she moved with her husband and two small daughters, aged 5 and 13, from Paris to the comparative safety of Issy-L’Evêque. It was there that she secretly began writing Suite Française. Though her family had converted to Catholicism, she was arrested on 13 July, 1942, and interned in the concentration camp at Pithiviers. She died in Auschwitz in August of that year. --Penguin Random House”

TRANSLATOR: (From the Author’s Guild) “Sandra Smith was born and raised in New York City. As an undergraduate, she spent one year studying at the Sorbonne and fell in love with Paris. Immediately after finishing her B.A., she was accepted to do a Master’s Degree at New York University, in conjunction with the Sorbonne, and so lived in Paris for another year. She then moved to England, where she began teaching 20th Century French Literature, Modern French Drama and Translation at Cambridge University. She currently lives in the New York area and teaches at NYU and has given Master Classes at Sarah Lawrence and Columbia.
Sandra Smith is the translator of all 12 novels by Irène Némirovsky available in English, as well as a new translation of Camus’ "L’Etranger" ("The Outsider", Penguin UK, 2012). Her translation of Némirovsky’s "Suite Française" (2006) won the French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize for fiction, as well as the PEN Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize, the first time that the same book has ever won both prizes in the same year. Suite Française also won the Independent British Booksellers Book of the Year prize and was voted Book of the Year by The Times of London.
Smith’s translation of "The Necklace and Other Stories" by Guy de Maupassant was inspired by her belief that Maupassant was a master of the short story genre who should be discovered by English speaking readers.
Her translation of Marceline Loridan-Ivens' "But You Did Not Come Back: A Memoir" won the National Jewish Book Award in 2017.
Six of Smith's translations have been adapted as radio plays on the BBC.
Her translation of a biography of Jacques Schiffrin was published by Columbia University Press early in 2019.
Her most recent translation are "The Prodigal Child" by Irène Némirovsky (Kales Press 2021), "Inseparable" by Simone de Beauvoir (Ecco Press/Harper Collins 2021), Finalist for the French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize for fiction, "In the Shadows of Paris" by Anne Sinclair (Kales Press 2021), Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and "Master of Souls" by Irène Némirovsky (Kales Press 2021).
She is currently working on the translation of Correspondence between Albert Camus and Maria Casarès (Knopf).”

NARRATOR: (from Wikipedia) “Daniel Oreskes is an American actor known for his roles in Law & Order, and Law & Order: Organized Crime. Oreskes has also appeared in numerous Broadway productions and narrates audiobooks.[1][2][3]
Oreskes graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.[4] He is the brother of academic Naomi Oreskes and former journalist Michael Oreskes.[5][6]”

NARRATOR: (from Wikipedia) “Barbara Rosenblat is a British actress. She is best known as a prolific narrator of audiobooks, for which AudioFile named her a Golden Voice.[1] She has also appeared on screen such as in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black as the character Miss Rosa.”

Historical Fiction

SUBJECTS: (Not comprehensive)
France; World War II; War; Occupation: Refugees



“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 [daughter of Irene]

EXCERPT: (From Chapter One)
“Hot, thought the Parisians. The warm air of spring. It was night, they were at war and there was an air raid. But dawn was near and the war far away. The firs to hear the hum of the siren were those who couldn’t sleep—the ill and bedridden, mothers with sons at the front, women crying for men they loved. To them it began as a long breath, like air being forced into a deep sigh. It wasn’t long before its wailing filled the sky. It came from afar, from beyond the horizon, slowly, almost lazily. Those still asleep dreamed of waves breaking over pebbles, a March storm whipping the woods, a herd of cows trampling the ground with their hooves, until finally sleep was shaken off and they struggled to open their eyes, murmuring, “Is it an air raid?”

3 stars

8-30-2023 to 9-11-2023 ( )
  TraSea | May 2, 2024 |
Emily St John Mandel likes it. I didn't finish it because I hated all the characters too much. ( )
  RaynaPolsky | Apr 23, 2024 |
Bonjour Tristesse

This unfinished work contain two of a planned sequence of five novels by Irène Némirovsky, a French writer of Ukrainian-Jewish origin who converted to Catholicism before WWII.

Unfinished because of Némirovsky was murdered by then Nazis in Auschwitz in 1942. Her daughter typed up the two novels from handwritten manuscripts and notes. It has since been translated into English and other languages.Obviously unfinished, Némirovsky’s light stil shines through.

This is a gem of a book. The first novel, “Storm in June” describes the flight of Parisians when Germany invaded in 1940. Scenes are reminiscent of the refugees in Prophet Song in that the refugees are white Europeans. However the imagery here is lighter, understated, concentrating on groups of people, and highlighting to class differences in the fleeing Parisians.

Some were wealthy, with family connections outside Paris. These had planned ahead, or felt comfortable enough to just show up at the châteaus of wealthy family or friends. Others had few possessions and had no destination, no means of transport as trains had stopped running and petrol/gas supplies , if they were lucky enough to have a car, were limited. The most terrifying part is not from the invaders, but from out-of-control poor French adolescents who murder a humble priest who has been caring for them. Here is an example Némirovsky showing her consciousness of class in French society. The humble priest is from a wealthy family, the boys who kill him are under-nourished san culottes

The second novel,”Dolce” has only tenuous connection with “Storm”. It’s obvious from writings in notebooks that these ties would be worked on and continued in the next three novels. Some of the notes were written in English. Possibly sixty years later by the daughter?

However I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the two novellas that survive. The style is consistent throughout.

“Storm” describes the German occupation of the French village of Bussy, a farming community in an idyllic setting. Here the Germans and French have ambiguous relationships with one another. Some French residents will not speak to the German soldiers they are forced to billet. Others have flings or affaires. Mostly the German troops are tolerated.

The two main characters are the German commander Bruno, and Lucile, a young French woman whose husband is a POW in Germany. The two have an almost affaire. Here the novel explores the deep and unbridgeable differences between the military Germans and the invaded French. For a fleeting time, four months, the two groups live in a fragile harmony with human decency ensuring a peaceful coexistence for most of the story.

Again Némirovsky shows the class differences that permeate French society. The rich exploit and despise the poor farmers who are the livelihood of the village. Two upper middle-class women joke about how they could eat crow soup but would despise the poor who would stoop so low as to devour it. The village mayor and his wife are without conscience when they fraternize with the Germans, whitest the poor do so of necessity or love.

With Bruno and Lucile, the would-be lovers, and an “‘incident” involving a local and the Germans, we move into page-turner territory. And it is here an alliance of sorts is made between the French rich and poor. Being French can after all, when push comes to shove, trump wealth.

I didn’t want this book to finish, and in the closing passages I was in tears when, knowing of the author’s fate, I read her parting words of hope for the future of the people she had created in these short works.

Highly recommended. ( )
  kjuliff | Jan 23, 2024 |
It’s quite good. A study of social classes under pressure as well as the randomness and ultimate futility of war. The stupid waste of it all. That said, the approach is not intimate, there are multiple people and family stories loosely woven together. I never fully engaged in the people but I did engage in the meta criticism (tl:dr people suck except for the people that don’t, but man oh man being rich or very poor don’t make for excellent humans)
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 303 (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 (7 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
Moldenhauer, EvaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olsson, DagmarTranslatorsecondary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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