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Suite Francaise...a war time masterpiece!
on August 15, 2006
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.