Saturday, 5 May 2007

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

You are a decent sort of person, respect the neighbours, keep on the right side of the law. But if you could die in the next few days as you flee your home, possessions and community what then? Could you keep decent, fair minded and above board? These are questions that Irene Nemirovsky explores.

In the first section, Storm in June she explores the impact of the fall of Paris in June 1940 falls and like a pebble falling into a pool we follow how this affects the life of various families and individuals. The Pericand's are an upper middle class family who flee and in the course of the flight the two sons, Hubert and Phillipe discover to fateful costs the depth of their political or religious pretensions. In Gabriel Corte the emptiness and selfishness of many intellectuals is explored and exposed. Or with other characters how the ordinary working class people were mistreated and trampled over.

This is not a history book but a moving story where we dip in and out of peoples lives as they deal with extraordinary events. In the second section, Dolce she explores how French and German lives interweave with each other in a small village two years after the invasion. Some of these characters and events have been touched on in the first section of the book but both sides have virtues and flaws. The writing and tone is superb and runs in the French naturalism tradition(think Zola).

Given the humanity of the writing and the story, its deepens the tragedy that she had escaped the death camps of the Russian Revolution only to die in Auschwitz. These fragments of a planned 5 part novel survived as her young children grabbed the diary as a memento of their mother whilst fleeing and hiding amongst relatives and friends. Their father also being snatched and dying in Auschwitz, a few months after their mother. The daughters found it too painful to read and so didn't discover until the 90's that the small bearable print was in fact the two sections of this novel.

Weep for what may have been and enjoy what we have. Highly recommended even for the fellows.


  1. Hi, this book sounds really great! Do you know where I can find it?

  2. hi you could join Bookmooch or Readitswapit(UK only) and swap books until you you get it. Or log on to which is a search engine for the cheapest book


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