Monday, August 29, 2011

Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky




  • Paperback: 403 pages
  • Genre : Fiction
  • Publisher: Vintage 2007
  • Source: My Daughter
  • First Sentences : ‘Hot,thought the Parisians. The warm air of spring, It was night, they were at war and there was an air raid.
  • Review Quote :’ An irresistible work. Suite Française clutches the heart’ The Times
  • My Opinion: For me this story was all the more poignant because of the way the author died.


I read this as it was a recommendation from my daughter and she kindly passed this copy onto me once she had finished with it. I am so glad that she did so because it is such a moving account of the experiences of the everyday lives of French citizens during the Second World War and particularly during the German occupation.

For me this story is particularly poignant because although the author started to write this novel in 1941 she never wrote beyond the first two  sections as she died whilst a prisoner of war at Auschwitz. Some sixty five years later the manuscript was rediscovered by Irene Nemirovsky’s daughter and published to receive critical acclaim. Her daughter had always thought it was her mother’s diary that she kept as a memento and it was not until she decided to read the manuscript that she realised it was actually a novel.

The intention had been to write a five part epic saga, however it still works in its incomplete form with just the two sections ‘Storm in June’ and ‘Sweet’.

It is set during the year that France fell to the Germans, the ‘Storm in June set in Paris as the inhabitants flee the city. As transport and distribution collapse while the Germans bomb Paris, the narrative follows several groups of characters as they try to escape the chaos. The second part, ‘Sweet’ takes us to rural France where the inhabitants of a small village are endeavouring to learn to live with the new regime, that has taken over everything they know and love. Both parts have an eclectic cast of characters that despite the disarray all around them manage to find hope and love in the most unexpected places. The novel ends after a scene in which the Germans are celebrating the first anniversary of the occupation of Paris. A bittersweet celebration, the title of ‘ Dolce’ ‘Sweet’ is an ironic but truthful title as bitter emotions bubble away under the surface of this part of the novel. It is interesting that part three, for which notes were written was to be a far more traumatic sequel.

It is a tragedy that Irene Nemirovsky never got to finish this emotional novel of humanity under stress, which I found a compelling read.

The author at twenty five.

Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev, Russia on February 11, 1903. Along with the rest of her family she fled Russia in 1917 at the start of the Russian Revolution. Eventually settling in Paris she attended the Sorbonne, married and became widely recognised as a major French novelist. Unfortunately she was never accepted as a French citizen and despite her conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, she was sent to Auschwitz  as a Jew under the racial laws and died there on August 17th 1942.

I recommend that any of you have not yet read this novel but think you might be interested in doing so, to watch this fascinating video first.

Irène Némirovsky: "Suite Française"

Uploaded by ProgressiveBookClub on Jul 30, 2009

Information for this post is with thanks to the following websites.

Suite Française - Irene Nemirovsky – Wikipedia

Irene Nemirovsky - YouTube

Author Profile - Wikipedia


  1. I read this with interest because dear Hubby has bought this book for me and I have been saving it to read when I can sit quietly and relish it. Normally I open a book and read it immediately but this seemed to require time and contemplation. I shall look forward to it even more now I have read your review.

  2. I thought this one was fascinating too, but like you said, the author's own story was more amazing than the book itself. Thank you for sharing that video, it's wonderful.

  3. You're right the video clip was fascinating. This book has been waiting patiently on my bookshelf; I really should make it a priority.

  4. I also found it a compelling read, Linda. I read it quite some time ago but, like you, found it so sad that Irene actually died whilst she was a prisoner of war. How wonderful though that her daughter actually finished the book.

  5. The author's story is so heart-breaking. I did enjoy the story, but how great iwould it have been if she had time to finish it.

  6. Carol@ I do hope you will enjoy it as much as I did, maybe save it for things are a little calmer!

    Melissa@ I am delighted you found the video interesting.

    Teddyree@ Yes fascinating, I do hope you move this up Mt TBR and I will look out for your review.

    Thisisme@ I am not sure how I missed this before, as you say it was published awhile ago!

    BookQuoter@ Yes I believe it would have been quite an epic saga had she been given the opportunity to finish it.

  7. I am putting this on my Barnes and Noble wish list. Thank-you for another amazingly comprehensive review. I appreciate the video, too!

  8. Ricki Jill@ I am delighted to have tempted you enough to add this title to your wishlist.

  9. I'll be honest, I just could not get into this. I'm not sure why, exactly!

  10. Talli@ That is a shame, but it is best to be honest and life would be boring if we all liked the same things all the time.

  11. The back story to this is fascinating... and I enjoyed the video clip very much! I've just begun "The Tiger's Wife" and have been pulled in entirely. I hope to finish it before school begins this week and be able to recommend it to my students.

  12. Loved the video and the review is apt, precise.I could recollect to most part of the review while watching the video.

  13. Carrie@ I agree the story behind this book was particularly fascinating. Less time for reading once the new academic year starts I suppose.

    Divenita@ I am delighted that you found the review complimented the video or vice versa, thankyou.

  14. :) Hi Lindy.. Anytime and u may now read the review.. the error is corrected

  15. Divenita@ Thanks for letting me know, I will call by again to read the review.

  16. Wow this sounds fascinating. I was not familiar with the background of the book and Nemirovsky herself.

  17. Brenna@ It is fascinating so do try and get hold of a copy if you can.

  18. I've tried several times to read this post but Blogger would not oblige! But persistence has paid off and I was curious to learn your thoughts about this moving book.

    Although I read the book when it was first translated into English, the images I saw as I read are still very much in my mind. For someone who normally reads non-fiction only, I have to say this novel is one of the most haunting I have ever read.

    1. Thanks for persevering Dolly as it was interesting to know your thoughts on this one. Having been to Paris it was for me a pleasure in imagery as well.


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