Monday, 31 January 2011

Book Review - Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Synopsis - This book is set during the year that France fell to the Nazis.  Suite Francaise is made up in two parts.  The first depicts a group of Parisians as they flee the Nazi invasion and the second follows inhabitants of a rural community under occupation.  The author was born in Kiev in 1903, the daughter of a Jewish banker.  In 1918 her family fled the Russian revolution for France where she became a novelist.  In 1940 she moved with her family from Paris to Issy - l'Eveque and it was here that she started writing the Suite.  She died in Auschwitz in 1942.  The book has been translated into English by Sandra Smith in 2006.
Review - I wonder if I have not actually given this book a fair chance.  Due to commitments I was only able to read the book in short grabbed moments, on the bus to work, a chapter at bedtime, etc.  I could not get into the story in any great detail before dropping the book until another time.  The first part of the Suite, titled Storm in June is where Parisians, rich and poor flee the capital as Germany invades France.  The chapters jump from family to family and this is where I found it difficult to keep up with the momentum.  I forgot who was who and lost interest due to the muddle of characters.  I could understand the thieving, looting and struggle to find food in such desperate times.  Also the deception and mistrust and this flavour was portrayed well.  In terms of story I much preferred the second part Dolce, the storyline was slower paced focussing on a couple of rich households and one of the poor tenant households.  The power-hungry extremely rich who withheld supplies from their tenants who came to despise and steal from them.  In contrast, you had the well heeled Lucille married young to a man she did not love and who did not love her.  Her husband was a prisoner of war and Lucille lived with her Mother in law who showed resentment particularly when she suspected Lucille of having an affair with the German officer residing in their household.  Lucille was depicted as a kind hearted girl but with intelligence.  Her friendship with the German officer was 'respectable' even if rather strange during the occupation.  Her kindness towards helping others by harbouring one of the tenants who had killed an officer.  This act won the affection of her Mother in law who despised the Germans intensely and who was equally prepared to risk all.  3*

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