At the recommendation of all the best of 2006 reviews as well as DJ Cayenne’s post, I just finished reading Suite Francaise by Irene Némirovsky. DJ’s post pretty much covered the synopsis of the book and the author’s tragic story so I am compelled to just further recommend it.
There are a couple of things that really struck me about this book. This book was translated from the French and written by someone whose native tongue was Russian. The English version was so beautifully and descriptively written that had I not known it was translated, I would have never guessed. I also believe that since Némirovsky was writing this first-hand during the exodus of Paris and the subsequent German occupation, she was able to truly capture the spirit of the French at that time. The version that I was taught in school was that of “bastard French, Nazi sympathizers” but this book cast a whole new light on the events of the times. It made me realize that the French were no different than most people who were suddenly subject to defeat, occupation and humiliation. As a society, they wanted the culture and spirit of the French to survive at all costs; as individuals, this longing to have life continue as it was pre-war resulted in the best and worst of their personalities and inherent rigid class structure to come out full force.
Throughout the book, I just kept thinking what a tragedy it was that this book was never finished and that Némirovsky’s life was cut short. It’s hard to imagine how many other authors, musicians, scientists, were killed during WWII and how the world might have been different had they survived. How many of the soldiers that have been killed in Iraq had the potential to influence this world in a positive way? I don’t want to get on my soapbox but the book was not only wonderful in and of itself but it makes the reader think about the physical and emotional devastation that war inflicts on all who are touched by it.