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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suite Francaise...a war time masterpiece!
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...
Published on Aug. 15 2006 by R. Nicholson

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.

I did like "Suite Francaise" and it has changed the way I think people react during war. Irene Nemirovsky's book starts off with part one called "Storm in June". "Storm in June" takes place in Paris in 1940 as the Germans are marching in and the...
Published on June 18 2008 by Pauline

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suite Francaise...a war time masterpiece!, Aug. 15 2006
R. Nicholson - See all my reviews
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Hardcover)
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. Over the course of their 3 month occupation the Germans soldiers, despite their attempts to act civilly and integrate with the villagers, have difficulty understanding why the people of the village don't accept them, and in turn, the villagers, who initially will have nothing to do with the invaders, begin to actually like and even admire some of these "foreigners" by the time they depart to the new Russian front. This second section was well written and beautifully told; something to be appreciated and savored, like good wine.

Two appendices contain some hand written notes by the author made while conceiving this novel and also some correspondence between the author and associates dated in 1942. Another section at the back of this book gives a brief resume of the authors life.

All in all a magnificent novel. Highly recommended! 5 stars.

P.S. If you enjoyed this book as much as I did then I'd humbly suggest reading "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. Another novel of the same time era; beautifully written, movingly sad, but yet a pleasure to read. R.A.N.
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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
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World War II Historical Fiction, April 12 2009
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Paperback)
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. He flees and is hidden by a French woman who will later take him to Paris to join the communist, resistance movement.
The book is written from the point of view of the French civilian population as a conquering army intrudes on years of established relationships and customs. There is a haunting and painfully sensitive attention to detail within the narrative.
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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
Edwin (Phoenix, Arizona, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Hardcover)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A work in progress, Aug. 24 2009
Andrea (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Paperback)
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 to its history. How do you review a work that isn't actually finished? Suite Francaise is only two parts of a sweeping novel that Nemirovsky had planned to be a five part, 1000 page epic. She was writing about WWII as it was happening, and died at Auschwitz before completing the remaining three parts. The appendix contains Nemirovsky's notes detailing her plans for Suite Francaise so readers get an idea of how the two parts were to fit into the overall story, but as it is, it is a work in progress.

The first of the two books in the Suite is 'Storm in June', which recounts the experience of various families and couples fleeing Paris during the German invasion in June of 1940. Nemirovsky tells the story mainly from the perspective of the rich, self-absorbed upper classes, who are more concerned about saving their linens and family china than about the fact that life as they know it is ending. It makes for a striking contrast against the refugees they encounter who are forced to leave Paris with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and the ones who had to make the journey on foot, hiding in ditches to avoid the bombs. According to the appendix, this was deliberate, and it works; I really disliked most of the characters and wanted to give their heads a shake. The pace of the story is brisk, not too much description of scenery or too many lengthy meditations, which I felt was appropriate to the circumstances ' people are living minute to minute, never knowing when or where the next bomb will hit or if they'll make it to the next town.

The second story, 'Dolce', takes place a year later in a small country village under German occupation. This one is slower paced, more reflective, giving us a look at brief period of calm during the war. A few of the characters introduced in 'Storm' appear again here, though only in passing. In this one, a young French woman, whose husband has been taken prisoner by the Germans, falls in love with the German officer living with her and her mother-in-law. I liked 'Dolce' better than 'Storm', I think because the characters in this one were more likeable and there was some more depth to the story.

All in all, I think my expectations may have been too high going into this because I came away feeling kind of disappointed. And here is where it gets tough to review properly, because these stories were not meant to stand on their own so I feel like I'm not being fair. After reading the appendix and Nemirovsky's notes, I can see where she was going with the Suite and I think it would have brilliant if she'd been able to complete it. In the context of the overall story that she wanted to tell, 'Storm' and 'Dolce' are a perfect set-up and very smartly done, so I'm basing my rating on that. I read that Nemirovsky's plan for this Suite and the way that she'd structured it was inspired by Beethoven's Fifth Symphony...what a tragedy it is that she wasn't able to finish it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unfinished masterpiece, Oct. 27 2008
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Paperback)
Suite Francaise sat on my permanent "mountain" of waiting-to-be-read books for about a year, unopened. Had I only known...

The Holocaust claimed the lives of innumerable people. Irene Nemirovsky was among them. She died at Auschwitz a year after writing the first two novels (out of intended five) belonging to Suite Francaise. "Storm in June" and "Dolce" were re-discovered decades after she died and subsequently published, adding a further and unusual insight to the tragedy of war. The world lost a very talented writer, already successful and well known at the time of her death.

I think it is important however to discern the actual BOOK from the extraordinary CIRCUMSTANCES surrounding its discovery and the personal history of its author, as it would have been, in my opinion, a great literary success regardless. No doubt this is easier said than done, especially after turning the last page having read not only the book but all the following appendixes, which clarify the author's frame of mind and personal turmoil at the time of writing, as well as several points about the manuscripts that were still pending and awaiting a definite closure, a task possible only after the end of WW2, primary background of the entirety of Suite Francaise.

Having said this, the book itself is a standout. The first novel, "Storm in June" recounts the exodus from the city of Paris due to the advancing Nazi invasion. Different characters from different backgrounds feel Paris is not safe any longer and decide to leave everything behind and flee, seeking refuge in the French countryside. Coming to terms with the lurking spectre of war generates the most varied reactions and perturbates minds and souls, revealing the true nature of each individual.
A few characters mentioned in "Storm in June" reappear, but only just, in the following novel, "Dolce" (and that's because some connections were meant to be further developed in the never-written but intended sequels). Set in a small town in the French countryside, the Germans have already arrived and impose their rules and regulations to the locals, often occupying their homes for accommodation. Everyone is bitter, resentful and scared about the imposed presence of the Nazis, from the farmers to the lords of the manor so to speak. As in the first novel, the true nature of each character reveals itself in this time of need, fear and confusion.

What the two novels have in common is the wonderful characterization. It is clear that the author wanted to project people and their feelings most of all. No matter how rich, poor, famous, noble, sweet or arrogant, no matter their different backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: fear. And one target: survival. For themselves and their loved ones. The momentous events reveal the true nature of the characters involved and the disruption it causes to their life, merging into a form of cowardice and malignancy for some and humility, courage and hope for others.

And no, this is not "another one" of those books about war or the Holocaust. It is war felt and lived through by different characters with diverse points of views, and that includes the German soldiers, depicted especially in "Dolce". Definitely a different perspective, and an original one, of WW2.

Original language hues are sometimes lost in translation, I cannot know if this was the case, however the narrative here is captivating and has an erudite quality which speaks for itself; it is in any case extremely accessible and easily readable. Sad of course, although funny remarks are included too, sparsely distilled here and there befitting certain situations. Even the least important character -just like settings and surroundings- is etched vividly reflecting the multifaceted reality of war times. If this book was not brought to an end and feels a bit disjointed, it is not something that spoils the reading. Its essence is pristine and the message conveyed a tug at the heart. Need I say more? I loved it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars FRANCE, A DEFEAT, THE HUMAN CONSEQUENCES, Sept. 24 2007
James W. Derry (Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Suite Francaise (Hardcover)
Many fine reviews have already been written about this extraordinary novel finally published after more than sixty years. Despite being incomplete, this is a great story not just about the fall of France but about human behaviour under foreign invasion and occupation.
Storm in June is about hearing of the defeat in Paris and the subsequent evacuation to the south of several individuals and families. Dolce is set in an occupied French village and examines both the villagers and their German invaders. Three other parts were planned but the author died before she could complete her story.
One thing I enjoyed about this novel was its quiet style, which is not seen much these days in show boat celebrity Oprah writting. Irene Nemirovsky is not only brilliant at creating characters of various types and classes, but of showing how they each react to the invasion. Some are brave, some are despicable, most know they will have to make a compromise to survive. This is a complex thing to attempt yet the author still has the will to write measured, beautiful passages describing a summer evening in a village square a few hours before the first German soldier arrives or the spendour of an hotel trying to keep up appearances for its paniced guests. The novel is full of intimate moments that stay with the reader and Irene Nemirovsky sees with prophetic clarity what is happening to France and what will occur after the war.
The world is fortunate to have had this book saved. Maybe it will learn something from it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Two Unfinished Facets of a Gorgeous Diamond in the Rough Set in World War II Tragedy, May 11 2007
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Paperback)
Suite Française contains two unfinished sections, Storm in June and Dolce, of a planned five-part work about the invasion and occupation of France in World War II. The appendices contain the author's notes for what the other three sections would contain, her correspondence and correspondence about her (especially after she was sent to Auschwitz where she died), and preface to the French edition that outlines her personal history.

This work only recently came to light after Ms. Nemirovsky's surviving daughter, Denise Epstein, began typing out her mother's long-ignored notebook for a memory project.

As you read this work, you'll be responding at two levels: To the monumental tale of a nation unexpectedly brought to its knees and beholden and exposed to its conquerors . . . and to the real human tragedy of a family that would lose both parents while the two daughters survived by being hidden by their governess and those who opposed the Nazis.

Ms. Nemirovsky was a keen observer of the French. All of their quirks from the 1940s are present here, often lampooned into very funny extremes.

Those quirks are first beautifully displayed as a large number of characters are followed while they flee Paris at the last minute before the Germans arrive to evade what they fear will happen to those who stay. With the roads clogged and resources running out, each must cope in her or his own way to find food, lodging, and a safe haven. Not everyone succeeds. In those moments where the realities of the uncivilized aspects of human nature are exposed, you'll feel a chilling presage of the author's ultimate fate.

New dimensions of the quirks are exposed by putting the characters into close contact with German soldiers who are billeted in their homes. Some can make a great show of having no contact, while someone must interact with the Germans to gain benefits that everyone needs. Can you treat an enemy soldier as a person without compromising your own morality, your relationship with your family, and your own integrity? Those are all nice questions that the book raises in Dolce, which covers the period after the invasion through to the beginning of the Russian campaign.

A great strength of these materials can be found in the intense character development. You'll feel like you've always known these people. Even the superficial ones will capture your interest: What selfish, ridiculous actions will they take next?

Even more significantly, the book challenges our notions that groups of people are an entity. Their differences under a label (such as "French" or "German") are much wider than the differences in the labels. You also get a strong message of how dangerous it is for humanity to accept labels rather than considering each person as an individual, as God does.

Rarely have I read any fiction that's so funny, profound, and so enlightening at the same time . . . in the context of great tragedy. You'll find the range of your emotional experiences to be stretched in helpful new ways by this remarkable work.

Writers will take special joy from the book as they gain insights into the working methods of a major novelist.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling gripping book that had me hungry to read more, Oct. 11 2007
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Paperback)
I was transported back to war torn France and walked the dusty roads to the concentration camps with other prisoners or so it seemed. How lucky was I to be able to imagine and not recount from personal experience. The author has a story to tell and elegantly she succeeds allowing generations after her to know what it was like for people caught up in such madness. I took this book along with two others on holiday and settled down on the hot sands to read, I was unprepared for such a brilliant read. I must also recommend THE FATES by Tino Georgiou his book captured my attention as diligently as Suite Francaise.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid five stars, July 2 2006
This review is from: Suite Francaise (Hardcover)
If you're looking for a "light" summer read---this ain't it. Choose instead something easy and fun--you know, such as "Katzenjammer" by McCrae or the favorite "Secret Life of Bees." Now, that said, SUITE FRANCAISE is popular because of two things: It's well written, and it's a great story. Trust me--the two don't always go hand-in-hand. Nemirovsky was an immigrant from a family that was quite wealthy and who had to flee the Bolsheviks as a youngster. She then went to France and was shipped to Auschwitz at one point. Enter the gist of the story. This, for me, was something like a cross between "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "Schindler's List," though really on its own terms. I would recommend this book, but might also suggest the recent hit "Night" by Weissel.

If you want a great book that will move you, SUITE FRANCAISE is it. If you want a light summer read, might I suggest "Katzenjammer" by McCrae or the book "Life of Pi."
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Suite Francaise
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Paperback - April 10 2007)
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