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Suite Francaise: A Novel

by

Suite Francaise: A Novel Cover

 

Awards

Winner of France's 2004 Prix Renaudot

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

By the early l940s, when Ukrainian-born Irène Némirovsky began working on what would become Suite Française — the first two parts of a planned five-part novel — she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz: a month later she was dead at the age of thirty-nine. Two years earlier, living in a small village in central France — where she, her husband, and their two small daughters had fled in a vain attempt to elude the Nazis — she'd begun her novel, a luminous portrayal of a human drama in which she herself would become a victim. When she was arrested, she had completed two parts of the epic, the handwritten manuscripts of which were hidden in a suitcase that her daughters would take with them into hiding and eventually into freedom. Sixty-four years later, at long last, we can read Némirovsky’s literary masterpiece

The first part, "A Storm in June," opens in the chaos of the massive 1940 exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion during which several families and individuals are thrown together under circumstances beyond their control. They share nothing but the harsh demands of survival — some trying to maintain lives of privilege, others struggling simply to preserve their lives — but soon, all together, they will be forced to face the awful exigencies of physical and emotional displacement, and the annihilation of the world they know. In the second part, "Dolce," we enter the increasingly complex life of a German-occupied provincial village. Coexisting uneasily with the soldiers billeted among them, the villagers — from aristocrats to shopkeepers to peasants — cope as best they can. Some choose resistance, others collaboration, and as their community is transformed by these acts, the lives of these these men and women reveal nothing less than the very essence of humanity.

Suite Française is a singularly piercing evocation — at once subtle and severe, deeply compassionate and fiercely ironic — of life and death in occupied France, and a brilliant, profoundly moving work of art.

Review:

"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"This extraordinary work of fiction about the German occupation of France is embedded in a real story as gripping and complex as the invented one. Composed in 1941-42 by an accomplished writer who had published several well-received novels, 'Suite Francaise,' her last work, was written under the tremendous pressure of a constant danger that was to catch up with her and kill her before she had finished.

... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"[S]tunning....The author of Suite Française is one of the most fascinating literary figures you've never heard of — and her own tragic story only deepens the impact of her book." Newsweek

Review:

"Transcendent, astonishing....Suite Française, which might be the last great fiction of the war, provides us with an intimate recounting of occupation, exodus and loss." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Review:

"The story behind Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française is painful and extraordinary, a story yearning to be told....It would be a remarkable novel had it been written only recently, in comfortable circumstances; given its provenance, and its history, it is a book that demands to be read." Claire Messud, Bookforum

Review:

"[Suite Française is] clearly the work of a novelist with an alert eye for self-deceit, a tender regard for the natural world, and a forlorn gift for describing the crumbling, sliding descent of an entire society into catastrophic disorder." London Review of Books

Review:

"[S]tunning....[Némirovsky] wrote what may be the first work of fiction about what we now call World War II. She also wrote, for all to read at last, some of the greatest, most humane and incisive fiction that conflict has produced." Paul Gray, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Némirovsky's scope is like that of Tolstoy: She sees the fullness of humanity and its tenuous arrangements and manages to put them together with a tone that is affectionate, patient, and relentlessly honest....What leaves you breathless is the sense that you have in your hands something important, something precious and rare: a lost masterpiece. It is a privilege to read this book." O: The Oprah Magazine

Review:

"[G]randly symphonic, courageous, and scathing....[A] magnificent novel of the insidious devastation of occupation, and Némirovsky is brilliant and heroic....Everything about this transcendent novel is miraculous." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"[A] hugely ambitious novel....A valuable window into the past, and the human psyche. This is important work." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"It's evident from the novel's bravura beginning that we're in the presence of something exceptional. In two panoramic pages Némirovsky evokes not just a few Parisians' response to the latest air raid, but the entire city's." Newsday

Review:

"[Némirovsky's] talent was quite considerable and her personal story rather moving and awful....These are two beautifully restrained novels about the chaos and suffering immediately following the fall of Paris..." Chicago Tribune

Synopsis:

An extraordinary novel of life under Nazi occupation — discovered and published 62 years after the author's tragic death at Auschwitz. Subtle, often fiercely ironic, and deeply compassionate, it is both a piercing record of its time and a brilliant, profoundly moving work of art.

Synopsis:

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy — in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.

About the Author

Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 into a successful banking family and fled 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. When the Germans occupied France in 1940, she moved with her husband and two small daughters, age 5 and 13, from Paris to the comparative safety of Issy-L’Evêque. It was here that she secretly began writing Suite Française. She was killed in Auschwitz in 1942.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 12 comments:

lowanwin, January 28, 2013 (view all comments by lowanwin)
This is an incredible read. I was in awe once I realized Ms. Nemirovsky was writing her novellas at the same time the events she describes were taking place. Anyone with an interest in WWII will want to read this book.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
lowanwin, January 28, 2013 (view all comments by lowanwin)
This is an incredible read. I was in awe once I realized Ms. Nemirovsky was writing her novellas at the same time the events she describes were taking place. Anyone with an interest in WWII will want to read this book.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
lowanwin, January 28, 2013 (view all comments by lowanwin)
This is an incredible read. I was in awe once I realized Ms. Nemirovsky was writing her novellas at the same time the events she describes were taking place. Anyone with an interest in WWII will want to read this book.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 12 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400096275
Author:
Nemirovsky, Irene
Publisher:
Vintage
Translator:
Smith, Sandra
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
World war, 1939-1945
Subject:
History
Subject:
World War, 1939-1945 -- France.
Subject:
France - History - German occupation, 1940-
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Publication Date:
April 10, 2007
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
8 x 5.2 x 1 in 0.75 lb

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Suite Francaise: A Novel New Trade Paper
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Product details 448 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9781400096275 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[S]tunning....The author of Suite Française is one of the most fascinating literary figures you've never heard of — and her own tragic story only deepens the impact of her book."
"Review" by , "Transcendent, astonishing....Suite Française, which might be the last great fiction of the war, provides us with an intimate recounting of occupation, exodus and loss."
"Review" by , "The story behind Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française is painful and extraordinary, a story yearning to be told....It would be a remarkable novel had it been written only recently, in comfortable circumstances; given its provenance, and its history, it is a book that demands to be read."
"Review" by , "[Suite Française is] clearly the work of a novelist with an alert eye for self-deceit, a tender regard for the natural world, and a forlorn gift for describing the crumbling, sliding descent of an entire society into catastrophic disorder."
"Review" by , "[S]tunning....[Némirovsky] wrote what may be the first work of fiction about what we now call World War II. She also wrote, for all to read at last, some of the greatest, most humane and incisive fiction that conflict has produced."
"Review" by , "Némirovsky's scope is like that of Tolstoy: She sees the fullness of humanity and its tenuous arrangements and manages to put them together with a tone that is affectionate, patient, and relentlessly honest....What leaves you breathless is the sense that you have in your hands something important, something precious and rare: a lost masterpiece. It is a privilege to read this book."
"Review" by , "[G]randly symphonic, courageous, and scathing....[A] magnificent novel of the insidious devastation of occupation, and Némirovsky is brilliant and heroic....Everything about this transcendent novel is miraculous."
"Review" by , "[A] hugely ambitious novel....A valuable window into the past, and the human psyche. This is important work."
"Review" by , "It's evident from the novel's bravura beginning that we're in the presence of something exceptional. In two panoramic pages Némirovsky evokes not just a few Parisians' response to the latest air raid, but the entire city's."
"Review" by , "[Némirovsky's] talent was quite considerable and her personal story rather moving and awful....These are two beautifully restrained novels about the chaos and suffering immediately following the fall of Paris..."
"Synopsis" by , An extraordinary novel of life under Nazi occupation — discovered and published 62 years after the author's tragic death at Auschwitz. Subtle, often fiercely ironic, and deeply compassionate, it is both a piercing record of its time and a brilliant, profoundly moving work of art.
"Synopsis" by , Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy — in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.
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