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Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky - Book Review

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Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

Suite Française - Courtesy Vintage Books

The Bottom Line

Suite Française is the first two parts of what was intended to be a five part novel by Irène Némirovsky. Némirovsky was writing Suite Française during the German occupation of France in World War II, and before she could finish the novel, she was captured by Nazis and died in a concentration camp. Her manuscript remained undiscovered until recently. It was translated into English from French.

Suite Française is a poignant, important piece of literature that creates a very intimate portrait of French life in the early 1940s. As an unfinished work of fiction, however, it is a somewhat unsatisfying read.

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Pros

  • Well-written and detailed, Suite Française shows Némirovsky's skill as a writer
  • Each chapter recounts intimate details of daily life, giving a glimpse into another time
  • Némirovsky's unique position while writing the novel makes it particularly poignant

Cons

  • The pace is slow, and it is hard to get into the story
  • As an unfinished work, there is no ending, which is unsatisfying in fiction

Description

  • Suite Française is two novellas--one about the German invasion and one about the beginning of the occupation.
  • Irène Némirovsky introduces many different characters and moves between their experiences.
  • The novel looks at relationships between families, social classes, and the Germans and French.

Guide Review - Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky - Book Review

Suite Française is a hard book to review. On the one hand, I want to rank it well because I appreciate it. It provides a unique look into the German occupation of France during World War II, is well-written, and is historically important. I learned a lot about life in France in the early 1940s, and was impressed with the composition.

On the other hand, the book was slow and ultimately unsatisfying as a novel since it has no ending. Némirovsky invests time describing characters and situations that never rise to importance because the novel is less than half finished. When I first picked it up, I had trouble reading more than a chapter at a time. It was beautifully written, but didn't grab my attention. By the time the pages started turning, it was almost over, and I could only glean what would have happened in the rest of the novel from Némirovsky's notes, which were included as an appendix.

I recommend Suite Française to anyone who wants an intelligent book to read a little at a time. It is not a page turner, but it is beautiful and thought provoking. It would be especially interesting to anyone who likes French history or World War II. Excerpts of the book would be appropriate for classes to study.

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