Monday, June 11, 2007
Suite Française is beautiful, powerful, haunting story of occupied France during World War II.
It is made even more haunting by the fact that Némirovsky was in the process of writing this book when she was taken to a concentration camp in July of 1942. She died in August of 1942.
Suite Française consists of two parts. Némirovsky had planned to write a five-part novel. She was not granted the time to do so.
“The first part, “A Storm in June,” opens in the chaos of the massive 1940 exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion during which several families and individuals are thrown together under circumstances beyond their control. They share nothing but the harsh demands of survival—some trying to maintain lives of privilege, others struggling simply to preserve their lives—but soon, all together, they will be forced to face the awful exigencies of physical and emotional displacement, and the annihilation of the world they know. In the second part, “Dolce,” we enter the increasingly complex life of a German-occupied provincial village. Coexisting uneasily with the soldiers billeted among them, the villagers—from aristocrats to shopkeepers to peasants—cope as best they can. Some choose resistance, others collaboration, and as their community is transformed by these acts, the lives of these men and women reveal nothing less than the very essence of humanity.”
Némirovsky was living through these nightmare times as she wrote — and she takes you there. Perhaps it’s not a place you’ve ever contemplated going – but do consider taking the journey. You will be enthralled – captured by her amazing skill, power and ability to make that world (and all those characters) real.
At the end of the book are two Appendices as well as correspondence amongst Némirovsky, her husband, family members and friends as the horror approached. These are fascinating — and heartbreaking — to read.
Touching, moving, profound – there are simply not enough (or sufficient) adjectives to adequately convey the wonder and power of this book.
Quite simply, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
It is now on my list of “Books I Love.”