Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 19

Finally. This one was a doozy. It doesn't help that I'm incredibly busy and only have about 20-30 minutes a day to read, but Suite Francaise was more intricate and meaty than most of the books I've read lately. It's two novellas about the German occupation of France in World War II, beginning with "Storm in June" and Parisians fleeing the city, and "Dolce" with German troops occuping a small village and the surrounding farms.
But the best part of the book is the story behind the story: Irene Nemirovsky wrote it in 1942, which is just about the same time that the novel is set. All signs point to that being pretty remarkable - to write, as one New York Times critic penned, such "exquisitely shaped and balanced fiction" while the events were taking place around her was no mean feat. It's not a diary - far from it. It's a gorgeous, lush, completely fictional story, and I really liked it.
And then there's the other story: Nemirovsky was killed at Auschwitz later in 1942, and the book wasn't published until 2004 - Nemirovsky's daughter had the manuscript, but thought it was a personal diary and didn't read it, "fearing it would simply renew old pains" (thanks NY Times critic). So it's pretty incredible that it got published at all.
So - glowing review? Not quite. I got bogged down a few times, and after "Storm in June" ended, I sort of just wanted it to be over. I think it was really good, but I didn't love it. I just liked it.

Suite Francaise - B+

1 comment:

Hannah Furst said...

I recently saw your post about reading Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. I wanted to pass along some information on an exciting exhibition about Némirovsky's life, work, and legacy at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through August 2009, includes powerful rare artifacts —including the valise in which the original manuscript for Suite Française was found, as well as many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there is a special website devoted to her story

Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Chris Lopez at 646.437.4304 or

Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list. Thanks so much for sharing this info with your readers. If you need any more, please do not hesitate to contact me at