September 14, 2009

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

After a couple of hundred pages of beautiful, well-worded writing without obvious plot movement, I began to think that no one could possibly enjoy this book. After reading positive review after positive review and hearing my fellow book clubbers' opinions, I realize I was mistaken.

Yet, my position stands.

Irene is a great writer, crafting beautiful pictures with her words. I think I might have enjoyed it much better if she had time to complete this work, but I don't know if I would have allowed her the time because what she did complete was almost 400 pages.

This is a contemporaneously-written story about the French experience of the German invasion and subsequent occupation during World War II. One theme that is highlighted (and I find interesting) is that there are greater differences between classes than there are between the French and German people. There's no mention of the Holocaust, though Irene and her husband were gassed in Auschwitz.

If you're interested in this time period of European history, I would recommend this unique view of wartime. It's probably not for readers like me who prefer a more defined plot.


  1. I kind of agree...I tried and tried to finish this book, but couldn't. It was beautiful, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around it. Maybe approaching it as a collection of poems would have given me a better chance...

  2. I loved the book and the memorable characters in it - the Petain family a case in point. Knowing a little about French history helps one to savor this book. The titled French aristocracy had become irrelevant by 1940 (in fact was derided for its foolish excess) and relied on political liasons to give it validity (Daladier/Crussol and Reynaud/del Portes alliances an example with disastrous consequences for France). So, the deftly drawn portrait of the Petain family and their flight from Paris is particularily interesting, especially what they tookwith them that they valued (not grandfather!).

    The attachment of people to things was a recurring theme described with great irony in other characters. Humility is a lesson to be gotten from their stories.

    The author's unflinching character portraits ring true. They have the qualities of "what people think and do when no one else is looking". Their true natures emerge during a time of extreme stress and trauma.

    I am looking forward to the movie version with great anticipation.

  3. I read this book and absolutely loved it. You are so point on about the differences in classes being more stringent than the differences in nationalities!


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