Sunday, March 23, 2008

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

World War II is not an era that is particularly interesting to me. My knowledge of the fall of France comes from the movie Casablanca. My 10 year old son knows much more than I do! So I am not sure why this book interested me. Perhaps it was the author's story: an accomplished and well-regarded writer, Irene Nemirovsky was killed in Auschwitz. Years later, two pieces of a planned suite of stories are found and published to great acclaim.

I don't even remember where or when I heard about it; someone's blog, I suppose. Anyway, it is a wonderful book, or, I should say, two short books. The subject is bleak; the writing/translating exquisite. Even in the time of war, death, and occupation, there is hope, love and laughter.

The Gathering Storm follows several people/groups as they prepare to leave Paris: a wealthy family, a working-class-couple, a priest, a soldier, an author. The narrative flows between groups, telling of their experiences as the Germans take over.

The second part, Dolce, focuses on a village occupied by Germans, and the complex interactions between residents and occupiers. There are a few overlapping characters but each story stands on its own.

There is an unfinished feeling at the end of the book; maybe I felt it because I knew there were more books planned. There was also an appendix with the author's notes for the stories.

There are plenty of reviews to read for more detail; over 300 reader reviews on Amazon! This book is really worth reading.

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