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Monday, April 14, 2008

Suite Francaise

While browsing back in June, I came across Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. The story of the author - a Russian Jew living in German-controlled France during WWII, sent to Auchwitz and gassed - got my attention right away. She was writing this novel at the time of her death, writing about the world and the people around her. She had no way of knowing what would happen at the end of the war, who would win, or even if she would still be alive. Most novels of WWII were written with the advantage of hindsight but Nemirovsky didn't have that luxury. Something about that completely fascinated me and I just had to get this book.

It took me several months to begin reading it, then I put it aside for several more months. I enjoyed the story, but found the writing to be rather choppy. It could be the translation, or it could be how it was written, I can't say either way. But it didn't keep my attention the way I hoped it would. I picked it up again earlier this week and this time I couldn't put it down. I think the story became more and more interesting as it progressed (although the writing style did not change).

One thing I noticed is the author's hatred of collaborationists. She must have seen that on a daily basis! Another main theme in the novel is the idea that those who treat their neighbors badly will get their just desserts in the end. She came up with some pretty cool ways to get rid of some nasty characters!

I have to say that my favorite part of the entire book was the Appendices at the end. The first part was excerpts from her journal where she wrote about her plans for the book. It was unfinished at the time of her death but the journal gives insight into what she planned for the main characters. It also conveys he feeling on the world around her. The second part contains letters written by her and to her, and also by and to her husband from friends after she was deported. That part send shivers down my spine. She was dead within a month yet her family and friends didn't know for years.

This book gets great recommendations from me. The novel itself isn't the best but with the author's story alongside, it's a must read for everyone.

Here are links to other reviews of this book ... it seems that opinions are widely varied!
Book Club Girl's review
The Inside Cover's review
John at The Book Mine Set
Book Nut


Becca said...

Heather: I'm so glad you managed to finish the book. I can see what you mean about it being choppy in the beginning. I guess I gave it a benefit of the doubt, thinking to myself that Nemirovsky would have cut out some of those characters' chapters and made it flow together better in the end.

Thanks for the shout-out too! :-)

Laura said...

I recently bought this book because it sounded interesting, and this time period really appeals to me. I hadn't read any reviews until yours, so thanks for the great review!

John Mutford said...

I think I actually preferred the appendices at the end to the story. It's as if Nemirovsky became a character in her own novel. I reviewed it here and added a link to your post as well-- hope you don't mind!

Melissa said...

That's interesting about the appendices; I skipped them because I was Frenched out... maybe I'll have to go back sometime and read them.

Thanks for linking to me. :)

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