Sunday, March 10, 2013

“But what is certain is that in five, ten or twenty years, this problem unique to our time, according to him, will no longer exist, it will be replaced by others...Yet this music, the sound of this rain on the windows, the great mournful creaking of the cedar tree in the garden outside, this moment, so tender, so strange in the middle of war, this will never change, not this, this is forever.”

Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky
431 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, France, WWII

Summary: Suite Francaise chronicles the lives of people living in France under German occupation in WWII.

Review: I will read pretty much anything related to WWII, as it’s always been one of those historically significant periods of time that I find endlessly fascinating. The complexity of events surrounding the war itself are extraordinarily intricate and interesting, and even when it seems like I know every nuance of the incidents therein, I almost always learn something new when I read another account.

It probably goes without saying that as soon as I saw Suite Francaise, I wanted to read it. As much as I’ve read about this particular war, I haven’t really read all that much from the French perspective, and the intriguing cover and blurb drew me in like a moth to a flame. I was completely absorbed in Suite Francaise from start to finish, and as the hours ticked by and I got more and more involved in the plot, it was very hard for me to pull myself away.

Suite Francaise is much more than a book about a country at war; it is also an examination of what it means to be human. This book explores what happens to one’s psyche when one lives through a war, both from the the perspectives of civilians and soldiers. I really liked that many of the characters had conflicting emotions regarding many things, including their marriages, as it made them seem wholly real.

Similarly, I really liked the fact that the author portrayed the Germans as humans with thoughts and emotions, too. Instead of just being cold, calculating people like books often portray them to be, they had families, passions, and as one of the characters pointed out, he was just following orders. As horrifying as the Nazi regime’s atrocities were, underneath their maniacal nature, they were people, too, and I’ve never really read a book that has highlighted that before.

Perhaps just as intriguing as the book itself was the author’s life. Irene Nemirovsky was a famous Jewish author that was ultimately killed in a concentration camp, and I found her story to be extraordinarily compelling and sad. The section about her life at the book’s end almost read like a thriller novel. When her background is taken into account, it’s even more interesting that she chose to let the reader get to know a few of the Nazis that occupied France during the war, and it is truly a tragedy that she died so soon.

If you like WWII historical fiction and would like to take a trip into the heart of Nazi occupied France, Suite Francaise is a must read.

Rating: 5/5

Read-alikes: The Book Thief - Markus Zusak, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer


  1. Yay! I thought you would love this. And you did. Go me. I've read one other Nemirovsky novel, and it was beautiful as well. If only she could have finished this, as it would undoubtedly have been her opus. :(

    1. It was so good! I definitely plan to read another of her novels, and it really is a shame they she died the way she did.