Saturday, July 11, 2009

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Publisher: Random House Inc
Pub. Date: April 2007
ISBN-13: 9781400096275
Pages: 431
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: In 1940, Nazi Germany invaded France. In Suite Francaise, Nemirovsky wrote about the French evacuation of Paris. Chaos among the Parisians set in as they try to escape their enemy. Moving from Paris to the occupied German town of Bussy, the French were forced to live with the enemy in their own homes. It’s a story of strength and survival and of people at their worst and at their best.

Review: Suite Francaise is divided into two parts: Storm in June and Dolce. In part one, Storm in June, the story opens in the eve of Nazi occupation of Paris. A series of characters are introduced such as the Pericand family; the writer Gabriel Corte and his mistress Florence; the married couple Jeanne and Maurice including their son Maurice; and Charlie Langelet. Each of them deals with survival as they go on their exodus from Paris and into the countryside. What I loved about this book was how the author brought me right into scenes. I could feel the panic they felt as they tried to leave Paris. The author was also quick to point out how the poor, the middle class, and the rich dealt with the evacuation. While the rich were quick to prey on the poor, war had no boundaries and everyone no matter what class they came from was greatly affected. I felt that the poor suffered more though.

The evacuation scenes did remind me of Byron Henry and Natalie Jastrow while they tried to escape Poland during the Nazi invasion from Herman Wouk’s Winds of War. That’s another great book, by the way, if you haven’t read it.

Part two is titled Dolce. Some of the characters from Storm in June are included here, but the story has proceeded into the rural town of Bussy. By now the Nazis have invaded Bussy and the townspeople are forced to open their homes so that the soldiers have a place to stay. The town has no choice but to let the enemy in their lives or else they will face death. Although it is engaging to read Storm in June, I found Dolce to be more fascinating. I’m not sure if it’s because of the forbidden attraction of the German officer, Bruno, and Lucille, a French woman who’s trapped in a loveless marriage but it certainly does add a twist into the story. One thing I’m certain why I like it is because I felt closer to the characters than I did from Storm in June, but perhaps that was the author’s intent. There were far more characters in the first part than in the second. I felt that Lucille from Dolce was the most dynamic character of all. Although she befriended a German officer, she showed that she was a French patriot first by aiding a troubled family friend to escape the hands of the Nazis.

Recommendation: If you’re a die hard fan of WWII- related books like me, do not miss this book.


  1. I took this out a couple of times and just could never get around to it. I might try it again just one more time!

  2. Hi, okbolover. Yes, give it another shot when you have the time. The first part has plenty of characters and it focused on each of the characters' struggles so it's a little hard to get into it first. It's kinda like watching a soap opera where they jump from scene to another. However, it is an excellent book.

  3. I've always loved that time period - so I think I'm going to have to add this to my to-read list. Thanks for the review.

  4. Hello, Angie. I love that time period too. It has always fascinated me.

  5. Helen,
    I have an Award for you! Its the Kreativ Blogger Award.
    Come by and pick it up. :)

  6. Thanks, Shellie. I appreciate it. :)

  7. Hello, Helen. Every year, I list all the best books that I've read. Last year, this Nemirovsky novel was my favorite.

  8. Nemirovsky's writing is wonderful! I will also start looking for some of the books she had authored.

  9. I loved this book. She was such a beautiful and elegant author, since reading this I grab up any book I can by her, and haven't been disappointed yet. Great review. Her novel "All our Worldly Goods" has some similarities in it to evacuation scenes, not as big on the war themes, but still worth reading.

  10. Jules, I will definitely try to get All Our Wordly Goods. Thanks for the recommendation! :)