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Suite Française Paperback – April 10, 2007
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“Stunning. . . . A tour de force.” —The New York Times Book Review“Remarkable.” —Newsweek“[Némirovsky] sees the fullness of humanity. . . . A lost masterpiece.” —O, the Oprah Magazine“Gripping. . . . Brilliant. . . . Endlessly fascinating.” —The Nation“Transcendent, astonishing. . . . The last great fiction of the war.” —The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette“Superb.” —The Washington Post Book World“Extraordinary. . . . A work of Proustian scope and delicacy, by turns funny and deeply moving.” —Time
About the Author
Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 into a wealthy banking family and emigrated to France during the Russian Revolution. After attending the Sorbonne, she began to write and swiftly achieved success with her first novel, David Golder, which was followed by The Ball, The Flies of Autumn, Dogs and Wolves and The Courilof Affair. She died in 1942.
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I will never forget this book and now I want to read all of her works. My favorite authors are J.D. Salinger, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Hemingway. I hope writers today will take note of this work of art and start to write stories that inspire and take us to new heights. We don't need another memoir!!!
What we have, then, is two of the intended parts, Storm in June and Dolce. In the first part, people are fleeing Paris as the Germans are preparing to take the city. Nemirovsky intended for them to be seen as a group. As a result, there is no main character. We have the aristocratic Pericands and their son Hubert, snobbish writer Gabriel Corte and his mistress, art collector Charles Langelet, and Maurice and Jeanne Michaud who both work for a banker. Their son, Jean-Marie, is a wounded French soldier, who will provide one of the connections to the French farmers and villagers in the village of Bussy in Southern France.
Madeliene, one of the two French farm girls who nurse Jean-Marie back to health, falls in love with him. A second tier of French villagers is the Angellier family who hosts a lieutenant in the German army. This is where the second part of the book, Dolce, starts, when the Germans enter the village, some of them taking residence with some of the villagers. Lucille, whose husband is a prisoner in a German Stalag, can't help but be fascinated by the musical Lieutenant Bruno von Falk. Her mother-in-law, Madame Angellier, accuses Lucille of hanky-panky before she even thinks about it. Eventually Jean-Marie gets well and returns to Paris, and Madeliene marries Benoit Sabarie, who has escaped from a German prison.
Nemirovsky seems to have a very cynical attitude about the French people. Most of her characters are selfish and egotistical. Charles Langelet steals gasoline from a young French couple who stop to help him. Others readily accept the Petain's collaborative government. The Viscountess de Montemort looks down on the farmers and villagers as less than human. Nemirovksy's notes and letters in the Appendix are somewhat enlightening. She was born to a rich banking family in Russia who lost everything during the Bolshevik revolution. Her mother was a megalomaniac. Irene hated her. Nemirovsky may have been thinking of her when she created the Viscountess.
The book comes to a screeching halt as the Germans are leaving the village. The Appendixes fill in the gaps. They also reveal what happened to Nemirovsky and her husband, Michel Epstein, and show his desperation as he tries to help his wife by any means at his disposal.