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Suite Francaise [Paperback]

Irene Nemirovsky
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 10 2007
By the early l940s, when Ukrainian-born Irène Némirovsky began working on what would become Suite Française—the first two parts of a planned five-part novel—she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz: a month later she was dead at the age of thirty-nine. Two years earlier, living in a small village in central France—where she, her husband, and their two small daughters had fled in a vain attempt to elude the Nazisshe’d begun her novel, a luminous portrayal of a human drama in which she herself would become a victim. When she was arrested, she had completed two parts of the epic, the handwritten manuscripts of which were hidden in a suitcase that her daughters would take with them into hiding and eventually into freedom. Sixty-four years later, at long last, we can read Némirovsky’s literary masterpiece

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 these men and women reveal nothing less than the very essence of humanity.

Suite Française is a singularly piercing evocation—at once subtle and severe, deeply compassionate and fiercely ironic—of life and death in occupied France, and a brilliant, profoundly moving work of art.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Celebrated in pre-WWII France for her bestselling fiction, the Jewish Russian-born Némirovsky was shipped to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, months after this long-lost masterwork was composed. Némirovsky, a convert to Catholicism, began a planned five-novel cycle as Nazi forces overran northern France in 1940. This gripping "suite," collecting the first two unpolished but wondrously literary sections of a work cut short, have surfaced more than six decades after her death. The first, "Storm in June," chronicles the connecting lives of a disparate clutch of Parisians, among them a snobbish author, a venal banker, a noble priest shepherding churlish orphans, a foppish aesthete and a loving lower-class couple, all fleeing city comforts for the chaotic countryside, mere hours ahead of the advancing Germans. The second, "Dolce," set in 1941 in a farming village under German occupation, tells how peasant farmers, their pretty daughters and petit bourgeois collaborationists coexisted with their Nazi rulers. In a workbook entry penned just weeks before her arrest, Némirovsky noted that her goal was to describe "daily life, the emotional life and especially the comedy it provides." This heroic work does just that, by focusing—with compassion and clarity—on individual human dramas. (Apr. 18)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Nemirovsky, a young Russian Jewish emigre, became a celebrated novelist in Paris at age 26 in 1929. She wrote eight more novels; then, even though she was certain that she wouldn't survive Germany's occupation of France, she embarked on a grandly symphonic, courageous, and scathing work about France's collaboration with the Nazis. She completed two of five planned movements before she was sent to Auschwitz, a heart-wrenching story meticulously documented in a supplemental section. As for Nemirovsky's masterpiece, it begins with the tumultuous "Storm in June," in which diverse Parisians frantically evacuate Paris during the June 1940 German invasion. Nemirovsky's gift for combining the panoramic with the intimate, high emotion with stinging wit, is reminiscent of Turgenev, Babel, and Berberova. Acutely sensitive to class differences, and mordantly scornful of hypocrisy, she orchestrates a veritable carnival of cowardice, lies, larceny, and murder as a panicked populace drops all pretense of civilization. The second movement, "Dolce," evokes the eye of the storm in the village of Bussy, where German officers are billeted in French homes, and life and love resume. Suite Francaise is a magnificent novel of the insidious devastation of occupation, and Nemirovsky is brilliant and heroic, summoning up profound empathy for all, including regretful German soldiers. Everything about this transcendent novel is miraculous. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suite Francaise...a war time masterpiece! Aug. 15 2006
By R. Nicholson TOP 500 REVIEWER
A wonderful novel!

This is a war time story by Irene Nemirovsky; Irene Nemirovsky, a Jew, died in a concentration camp in Auschwitz on Aug 17, 1942. This magnificent manuscript remained virtually forgotten for more than 60 years after the authors death. It tells of the early war years (1940-1941) with the Germans having just defeated the French army and occupying northern France.

The novel is broken into 2 sections. The first section, "Storm in June", deals with the story of about half a dozen persons and their immediate family or associates. Initially, it's an account of these soon-to-be refugees trying to endure the collective humiliation of a nation devastated by their recent defeat in the war; but it is more than this, it is really about the individual changes and personal hardships that are thrust upon hordes of unprepared poor, middle and upper middle class people. Charity, compassion and fair play are thrown out the window and replaced with greed, hoarding and personal survival (at any cost). A striking change in life's values when " the chips are down".

The second part of the novel, "Dolce", was my favorite and I felt, the most beautiful part. It is, in essence, two different love stories. One between a German officer, billeted in a small French home, and a middle class French women and the other, a more generalized affair between the occupiers and the conquered.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another side to war Jan. 20 2007
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Here are some compelling reasons for reading this book:

A. You're looking for a fresh perspective on the psychology of international conflicts like war. This story offers to take you inside the mindset of a French village as it copes with daily grind of living under German occupation during WW II;

B. You need to take a fresh look at some of the issues of war like collaboration as they impact individuals and communities. This story covers both sides of key differences in a very reasonable manner, so that the reader can identify closely with the awkward dilemma accompanying each critical decision.

C. You want to read an account of war that covers every day, down-to-earth affairs, and is not forever dominated by the themes of violence,terror,heroism and political intrigue. Nemirovsky has written just that kind of novel that allows for both a comfortable yet thought-provoking read.

D. Well written and worth the read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping story May 22 2006
By Edwin
A moving biographical story of French author Irene Nemirovsky. Beautifully presented by her daughter who survived the horrors of World War II, this biography is a presentation of secretly hidden works and memory of Nemirovsky, a Ukrainian born Jewish woman, who moved to Paris from Kiev with her family as a child. She became popular from her 1929 novel, DAVID GOLDER, which later became a play and a film. Arrested by French police and deported to Auschwitz in 1942, she died that year in Auschwitz , the same camp where her husband was gassed .However, her two daughters survived to reveal their mother's papers in THE WATCHTOWER, one of Irene's daughters tells the story of the family, the suitcase, and her mother's murder. Suite Francaise, the first two parts of what Irene Nemirovsky originally intended to be a five-volume epic, has been hailed by ecstatic French critics as "a masterpiece" and "probably the definitive novel of our nation in the second world war ."That is 62 years after Irene Nemirovsky's murder. Rights to the work have already been sold in 18 countries.Equally captivating are DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, EXODUS, UNION MOUJIK ,MILA 18 for mirroring the strength in all of us that can be harnessed if given the motivation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World War II Historical Fiction April 12 2009
Irene Nemirovsky had already published several acclaimed and popular novels during her lifetime before starting Suite Francaise which was published posthumously after her daughter had finally decided to overcome the painful associations and get it to a publisher. The book consists of two novellas, Tempete En Juin and Dolce, which were actually supposed to be part of a series of five novellas. For the third, Captivite, there exists an outline but for the fourth and fifth only titles, Batailles and La Paix, remain. Nemirovsky died at Auschwitz before the series could be completed.
Suite Francaise spans the period from early June, 1940 to July, 1941. The first novella describes the experiences of the French as the Germans swept into France and Paris, easily defeating the French army. Scenes of bombings, families struggling to stay together, individuals trying to acquire gas, food and lodgings to mount a successful escape all fill this section.
The second novella portrays the attempts of the Germans and the French citizens to form some sort of harmonious coexistence and to deal with the inevitable tensions and conflicts that arise. French girls yearn toward young German soldiers as French mothers carefully and fearfully guard their offspring against this sort of intrusion. German soldiers share personal lives and money in attempts at friendship while at the same time posters proclaim a steady series of rules whose violation results in immediate death through the firing squad.
There is a large German celebration that is mounted, and then suddenly a good portion of the troops get ready for redeployment at the Russian front.
The story that links Dolce with the subsequent novellas concerns Benoit who kills a German soldier after one of his hidden rifles is found.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I need more time to finish reading it!
I have not finished reading it yet. Other issues got in the way. So far I am finding it a little slow but others who have read it really like it and I believe I will too. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Helen Esau
3.0 out of 5 stars German invasion of France WWII
While reading Suite Francaise, I was expecting a plot, any plot, to thicken, but was disappointed.
Too many characters, all being members of "the privileged few"... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Bridget Moran-Klapwijk
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and moving
I really enjoyed reading these two books (published in one book) set in WWII France, written by someone experiencing WWII France while they were writing. Read more
Published on April 27 2011 by buddinghable
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
I've seen this book around for quite some time and picked it up to read the back of the cover and never bought it. Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2010 by debbie beaver
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my favs!
This novel was awesome. It was so detailed & really showed the differences between the wealthy and the destitute, the famous and the non during WWII, and just what people's minds... Read more
Published on May 6 2010 by lafleurpetite
4.0 out of 5 stars A work in progress
This novel has a really fascinating history and the longer I tried to figure out how to review it, the harder it got because my thoughts about the work itself are so closely tied... Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2009 by Andrea
5.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished masterpiece
Suite Francaise sat on my permanent "mountain" of waiting-to-be-read books for about a year, unopened. Had I only known... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2008 by I LOVE BOOKS
3.0 out of 5 stars Suite Francaise
"Suite Francaise" is a novel where the history of the author writing the book is more riveting then the book itself. Read more
Published on June 18 2008 by Pauline
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling gripping book that had me hungry to read more
I was transported back to war torn France and walked the dusty roads to the concentration camps with other prisoners or so it seemed. Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2007 by Dave Redding
Many fine reviews have already been written about this extraordinary novel finally published after more than sixty years. Read more
Published on Sept. 24 2007 by James W. Derry
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