Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Book You MUST Read This Summer

is Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, translated by Sandra Smith.
It is amazing - flawlessly written, moving and poignant.
I'll just quote the Amazon review summary thingie - 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.

I wanted to read from the time I read the New York Times review a few months ago - I blogged it here.

I normally gorge on books in one sitting but I just couldn't on this one - it needs digestion. I cried on the train at the emotional punch delivered by the personal correspondence between Nemirvosky and her family and her husband's subsquent attempts to locate her when she was taken to a concentration camp, before they both perished in Aushwitz.
Her notes for the final cycles are a fascinating insight into how a novelist works, in her case, with an apple sitting on some leaves in a forest far way from her home and security, on the run from Nazis.

Please read it. We need to never forget what happened.


Blogger Fence said...

I remember reading about this a while back. Looks interesting, I'll have to add it to the tbr list.

June 15, 2006 8:59 a.m.  
Blogger Kevin Breathnach said...


I'm reading this post just as I leave to buy books to eat up this summer. Suite Francais was already on the list. By the looks of its size, it might be one which I stop reading for a while to read something else, and then start back at it. We'll see.

June 16, 2006 10:40 a.m.  
Anonymous guile said...

nice, cozy place you got here :)..

June 29, 2006 11:11 a.m.  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home