SUITE FRANCAISE by Nemirovsky 2004) read Jan 2010


It is difficult to write a review of this book as it comprises two novellas of a sequence intended to be five. All we can say is READ IT!!
Irene Nemirovsky escaped with her Jewish parents from the revolution in Russia to live in France. Here she witnessed what occured at the time of the German invasion
in W.W.2.

The first book in Suite Francaise is “Storm in June” and depicts the flight of the citizens of Paris at the time of the German advance. We follow the plight of several families – the wealthy Pericands whose son’s lives are changed by the war ; the artistic Langelet, writer Corte and his mistress and Maurice and Jeanne Michaud, minor bank employees. The events depict how these people react in an effort to survive and only fleetingly do their paths cross.

The second book is “Sweet” and here the lives of the people in a small town occupied by the German troops, is described. The major story concerns Lucile Angellier. She lives uneasily with her mother-in-law as her unfaithful husband is a prisoner of war. When Bruno von Falk is billeted with them Lucille unwillingly falls in love with him. The story spreads to involve the local townsfolk and farmers in a time when, despite the occupation, life assumes a surprisingly “sweet” interlude.

This book was rated highly by the group. It is not anti war or horrific in its descriptions and is beautifully written. Both books look at the response of individuals to loss, love, death, disappointment, intrigue and survival. Suite Francaise is powerful and recommended by most of our group.

It is important to state that this series was never completed. Irene Nemorovsky was arrested as a Jew in 1942 and sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz . Her manuscripts for “Storm in June“ and “Sweet” were preserved by her daughters but not examined until 1998. The single volume “Suite Francaise” was then published and highly acclaimed. The book is full of beauty, pain, insight, humour and truth and is writing of quality which stands alone regardless of the knowledge a reader may have of the story behind the work.