From Publishers Weekly
Celebrated in pre-WWII France for her bestselling fiction, the Jewish Russian-born Némirovsky was shipped to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, months after this long-lost masterwork was composed. Némirovsky, a convert to Catholicism, began a planned five-novel cycle as Nazi forces overran northern France in 1940. This gripping "suite," collecting the first two unpolished but wondrously literary sections of a work cut short, have surfaced more than six decades after her death. The first, "Storm in June," chronicles the connecting lives of a disparate clutch of Parisians, among them a snobbish author, a venal banker, a noble priest shepherding churlish orphans, a foppish aesthete and a loving lower-class couple, all fleeing city comforts for the chaotic countryside, mere hours ahead of the advancing Germans. The second, "Dolce," set in 1941 in a farming village under German occupation, tells how peasant farmers, their pretty daughters and petit bourgeois collaborationists coexisted with their Nazi rulers. In a workbook entry penned just weeks before her arrest, Némirovsky noted that her goal was to describe "daily life, the emotional life and especially the comedy it provides." This heroic work does just that, by focusing—with compassion and clarity—on individual human dramas. (Apr. 18)
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Némirovsky wrote Suite Française
as the events that inspired them unfolded simultaneously; that alone makes the work remarkable. The first two novels came to light in 2004 (and were published to great acclaim in France) after Némirovsky's daughters revealed the existence of their mother's notebooks. With the author's notes about her next three novels (Captivity
, and Peace?
) included, it's clear that Némirovsky intended to write a sort of War and Peace
. Even without Némirovsky's astonishing perspective, critics agree that the novels' witty characterizations, mesmerizing prose, cinematic scenes, and insightful observations make these novels short masterpieces. The New York Times
expressed concern over characterization, and Newsday
noted the absence of discussion about Jews. Still, Suite Française
may be considered "the last great fiction of the war" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
).<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.