Book 982 Irene Nemirovsky – Suite Francaise

I admit that in my last post I complained that I would be put off by another book that focused the Second World War, but Suite Francaise is a bit different as it was written during in 1941 (but the manuscript was kept by Nemirovsky’s daughter and actually read about half¬† a century later). It is also worth noting that the author was gassed in a concentration camp 1942.

Due to this bizarre story, Suite Francaise is considered a publishing phenomenon , however does the story actually live up to it’s history?

As such I would say yes, but I admit that a part of me is holding back and I’ll explain why

‘Suite Francaise’ is divided into two parts (it was originally going to be five) the first half is called ‘Storm in June’ and it is absolutely fantastic. A well written account of people leaving Paris and undertaking a long journey to the countryside. Nemirovsky focuses on certain individuals (mostly from the upper classes) and how they cope with this exodus, by turns grotesque,humorous and charming this is virtually perfect.¬† According to the appendix on my edition this section was planned out very carefully and it shows.

The second part, called ‘Dolce’ is not as good. It concerns a small French village that is occupied by Germans. Most of it focuses on a romance between a German soldier and a country girl. Although it is not too bad I felt that it needed some editing, maybe from the publishers side as well.

The thing that amazed me was that Nemirovsky’s writing style is very contemporary and it takes a while before you realise that everything is taking place in 1940’s France and not contemporary France. Also her chapters are bite sized and very readable. In fact the only other French author (as I have an A level in French we were exposed to a lot of literature ) who manages evoke the same contemporary feelings is Maupaussant. Not only that but Nemirovsky also creates the same creepy/black humor feel that Maupassant perfected.

Considering that Suite Francaise is considered the very first fiction book written about WWII ( I don’t know how valid that claim is but certain websites have stated this) and that it is unfinished makes me wonder what Nemirovsky would be capable of writing had she lived. Already in this state Suite Francaise, does indeed have the makings of a classic.