- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 1697 KB
- Print Length: 418 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Digital; Film Tie-In edition (30 September 2012)
- Sold by: PRH UK
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003NX6Y0G
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Customer Reviews: 244 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,222 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
This price was set by the publisher.
Suite Francaise Kindle Edition
|New from||Used from|
|Length: 418 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
Switch back and forth between reading the Kindle book and listening to the Audible narration. Add narration for a reduced price of $13.49 after you buy the Kindle book.
Kindle Monthly Deals
New deals each month starting at $1.49. Learn more
Customers also viewed these products
Quite outstanding, full of beauty, pain and truth -- Anne Chisholm, Sunday Telegraph
An irresistible work. Suite Francaise clutches the heart -- Carmen Callil, The Times
The work of a genuine artist -- Julian Barnes, Guardian
Magnificent, The Times
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Hot, thought the Parisians. The warm air of spring. It was night, they were at war and there was an air raid. But dawn was near and the war far away. The first to hear the hum of the siren were those who couldn't sleep - the ill and bedridden, mothers with sons at the front, women crying for the men they loved. To them it began as a long breath, like air being forced into a deep sigh. It wasn't long before its wailing filled the sky. It came from afar, from beyond the horizon, slowly, almost lazily. Those still asleep dreamed of waves breaking over pebbles, a March storm whipping the woods, a herd of cows trampling the ground with their hooves, until finally sleep was shaken off and they struggled to open their eyes, murmuring, 'Is it an air raid'?
The women, more anxious, more alert, were already up, although some of them, after closing the windows and shutters, went back to bed. The night before - Monday 3 June - bombs had fallen on Paris for the first time since the beginning of the war. Yet everyone remained calm. Even though the reports were terrible, no one believed them. No more so than if victory had been announced. 'We don't understand what's happening,' people said.
They had to dress their children by torchlight. Mothers lifted small, warm, heavy bodies into their arms: 'Come on, don't be afraid, don't cry.' An air raid. All the lights were out, but beneath the clear, golden June sky, every house, every street was visible. As for the Seine, the river seemed to absorb even the faintest glimmers of light and reflect them back a hundred times brighter, like some multifaceted mirror. Badly blacked-out windows, glistening rooftops, the metal hinges of doors all shone in the water. There were a few red lights that stayed on longer than the others, no one knew why, and the Seine drew them in, capturing them and bouncing them playfully on its waves. From above, it could be seen flowing along, as white as a river of milk. It guided the enemy planes, some people thought. Others said that couldn't be so. In truth, no one really knew anything. 'I'm staying in bed,' sleepy voices murmured, 'I'm not scared.' 'All the same, it just takes one . . .' the more sensible replied.
Through the windows that ran along the service stairs in new apartment blocks, little flashes of light could be seen descending: the people living on the sixth floor were fleeing the upper storeys; they held their torches in front of them, in spite of the regulations. 'Do you think I want to fall on my face on the stairs! Are you coming, Emile'? Everyone instinctively lowered their voices as if the enemy's eyes and ears were everywhere. One after another, doors slammed shut. In the poorer neighbourhoods there was always a crowd in the Métro, or the foul-smelling shelters. The wealthy simply went to sit with the concierge, straining to hear the shells bursting and the explosions that meant bombs were falling, their bodies as tense as frightened animals in dark woods as the hunter gets closer. Though the poor were just as afraid as the rich, and valued their lives just as much, they were more sheeplike: they needed each other, needed to link arms, to groan or laugh together.
Day was breaking. A silvery blue light slid over the cobblestones, over the parapets along the quayside, over the towers of Notre-Dame. Bags of sand were piled halfway up all the important monuments, encircling Carpeaux's dancers on the façade of the Opera House, silencing the Marseillaise on the Arc de Triomphe.
Still at some distance, great guns were firing; they drew nearer, and every window shuddered in reply. In hot rooms with blacked-out windows, children were born, and their cries made the women forget the sound of sirens and war. To the dying, the barrage of gunfire seemed far away, without any meaning whatsoever, just one more element in that vague, menacing whisper that washes over those on the brink of death. Children slept peacefully, held tight against their mothers' sides, their lips making sucking noises, like little lambs. Street sellers' carts lay abandoned, full of fresh flowers.
The sun came up, fiery red, in a cloudless sky. A shell was fired, now so close to Paris that from the top of every monument birds rose into the sky. Great black birds, rarely seen at other times, stretched out their pink-tinged wings. Beautiful fat pigeons cooed; swallows wheeled; sparrows hopped peacefully in the deserted streets. Along the Seine each poplar tree held a cluster of little brown birds who sang as loudly as they could. From deep beneath the ground came the muffled noise everyone had been waiting for, a sort of three-tone fanfare. The air raid was over.
Customers who bought this item also bought
Review this product
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The novel as she conceived it was to consist of 5 parts and be approximately 1000 pages long. What was completed and made available is only the first 2 parts, "Storm" and "Dolce." Each follows a set of interconnected characters, "Storm" during the evacuation of Paris in 1940, and "Dolce" during the occupation in 1941. The narrative is multi-faceted, complex, and fragmented, and while "Dolce" does come to a sort of conclusion, the fact that Nemirovsky was unable to complete the remaining sections means that the novel ends on a cliffhanger of sorts. We are fortunate to have Nemirovsky's notes, which tell us how she intended to end the novel, but, sadly, we will never be able to read the fully realized conclusion as she intended it. While this leaves the reader dangling at the end of book, this should not be a reason not to read what we do have: even half-completed, the novel possesses plenty of narrative momentum, and its close-up portraits of individual characters, particularly the female ones, are tours de force, reminiscent in their own way of the perceptive vision of the mature Jane Austen of "Persuasion" or "Mansfield Park."
Although this is a war novel, there is very little that is warlike about it. Most of the characters are civilians, frequently women and children; the soldiers who feature in the narrative as point of view characters are depicted in hiding, if French, or as fairly peaceful occupiers of the French countryside, if German. Tragedy and atrocity are present, but often distantly: characters worry about their captured relatives, and about the possibility of reprisals by the Germans for individual acts of violence, but the German occupation of France was not the Eastern Front. The French resent the German occupiers, and many consider them alien barbarians, but in fact, as the story makes clear over and over again, they had much in common. Indeed, some of the most poignant moments in the narrative are occasioned by the budding romances between lonely German officers and young Frenchwomen full of native joie de vivre, dissatisfied with their unsympathetic and/or absent husbands, and thirsting for a fellow cultured soul with whom to have a conversation. While collaboration with the Germans is not condoned, neither is it condemned: Nemirovsky seems to feel genuine sympathy and understanding for those who found themselves, out of desperation, attraction, or sheer blind foolishness, consorting with and even supporting the invaders.
Nemirovsky's sympathy may have, like her appreciation for the chaos of the evacuation of Paris, had a biographical background. Concerned by the anti-Semitism sweeping across Europe in the 1930s, Nemirovsky and her family converted to Catholicism in 1939, and Nemirovsky published pseudonymously in the anti-Semitic newspaper "Gringoire." Tragically, it was to no avail: Nemirovsky and her family were named as Jews in the census and forced to wear the yellow star, while Nemirovsky was unable to continue publishing. In the summer of 1942 she was arrested, and the final section of the book includes her husband Michel's increasingly frantic letters to anyone he thinks might be able to find her and effect her release. Instead, he was arrested himself, and they both died in Auschwitz. Their older daughter, still a child, managed to save the manuscript of "Suite Francaise" as she went into hiding, thinking it was her mother's diary. The fact that it contained a novel only came to light years later.
While the story behind the story is in many ways more sensational than the novel itself, the novel, even unfinished and in pieces, is a complex, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, and unique addition to WWII literature, well worth reading by anyone interested in the period, or anyone who appreciates psychological depth in their fiction. A triumph of a book on so many levels.
Too many characters , too many story lines not one character really involves you, a superficial look at an occupied country with little anger. A book that you can easily put down I read it waiting for something to happen which never did.
Top international reviews
The initial sections detail the chaotic scenes as Parisians flee in great haste: the middle classes in their cars, sometimes with their servants or employees, and attempting to take with them all their valuables, even bedding; the lower classes fighting to find a seat on a train and taking only what they could carry; many forced to walk. I have no personal experience of such a situation, but the descriptions and the many characters involved certainly seem real. Many behave disgracefully in their desperation to get away, but who can say what each of us would have done in similar circumstances. The move south is fraught with danger as German planes attack trains, cars and even columns of people. The fear of the refugees is well described. Fortunately it did not last long because the Germans quickly occupied Paris and a ceasefire was called. Many people return to their homes and are surprised to find them un-vandalised and just as they had left them.
The second part is about life in a village and the surrounding countryside after the Germans base a company of soldiers there. The locals find that by no means do all the Germans conform to their stereotypes as vicious brutes. The villagers have to struggle to reconcile their understandable prejudices with the reality of the situation and although a few are implacable in their hatred of the enemy, most quickly adapt. Soon a degree of fraternisation inevitably occurs as the locals get to know the soldiers as individuals (some officers are billeted in local houses) and are forced to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. A few close romantic relationships are even formed, but doomed to have no real future, because both sides know that sooner or later the Germans will be moved elsewhere. This does indeed happen towards the end of the book, when Germany invades the Soviet Union and the troops are quickly dispatched to the Russian front.
The writing is beautiful, frequently moving, and this is maintained in the excellent translation. Although a novel, it gave me a new insight on the initial period of the German occupation of France, although of course it is just a small snapshot of the whole picture and others could give a far worse picture. The descriptions of the effects on a population and its individual constituents under the occupation of an enemy do however again force us to think about how we might have behaved in similar circumstances.
For the record, I am not Jewish and have no Jewish ancestry, so am not partial in any way.
At the end of the books the author's own notes and letters between her relatives as they try to have her released from the concentration camp where she died are fascinating.
Anyone considering writing a novel should read this work.
One thing that initially I did find quite off-putting was the fact that only two of the characters were really likeable. At first this seemed to detract from the novel and made it a little harder to get involved. However as the second part got underway, Irene Nemirovsky's deeper aims became more apparent. She is not simply creating a story to entertain (though it does contain some rather dark humour) but is making historical, social and psychological comment through her narrative. Her themes include love and its ability to reside in the most unlikely places, betrayal, the realities of war and of living in an occupied country, the relationships between the native French people and the interactions of the defeated with their conquers and vice versa.
It is probably a book to which I will return in the future.
It was meant to be a suite of books of which 2 are included. The first book really is wonderful. Gorgeously written, evocative, the characters and their lives draw you in - it is just a beautiful read. The second book was not finished and possibly had not been edited by the authoress. Many of the characters from the 1st book disappeared and a whole new cast is introduced. I understand from the notes at the end of the volume that some may have been reintroduced.
The intrigue and tragedy is that the author was a Jew and died in a death camp. There are some heart breaking quotes from letters from her to her family at the end of the volume as she awaits her fate. There are also some of her thoughts on the structure and how she would develop character and plot.
The second book is patchy, but of course that in itself is because of circumstance and I was delighed to have read it for the first book alone.
On the plus side, I'm always a bit wary of translations into English, where the language often seems a bit strained and artificial. But in this case the translation seems to be excellent, and I was never aware that it had been translated.
For me this story is particularly poignant because although the author started to write this novel in 1941 she never wrote beyond the first two sections as she died whilst a prisoner of war at Auschwitz. Some sixty five years later the manuscript was rediscovered by Irene Nemirovsky's daughter and published to receive critical acclaim. Her daughter had always thought it was her mother's diary that she kept as a memento and it was not until she decided to read the manuscript that she realised it was actually a novel.
The intention had been to write a five part epic saga, however it still works in its incomplete form with just the two sections `Storm in June' and `Sweet'.
It is set during the year that France fell to the Germans, the `Storm in June set in Paris as the inhabitants flee the city. As transport and distribution collapse while the Germans bomb Paris, the narrative follows several groups of characters as they try to escape the chaos. The second part, `Sweet' takes us to rural France where the inhabitants of a small village are endeavouring to learn to live with the new regime, that has taken over everything they know and love. Both parts have an eclectic cast of characters that despite the disarray all around them manage to find hope and love in the most unexpected places. The novel ends after a scene in which the Germans are celebrating the first anniversary of the occupation of Paris. A bittersweet celebration, the title of ` Dolce' `Sweet' is an ironic but truthful title as bitter emotions bubble away under the surface of this part of the novel. It is interesting that part three, for which notes were written was to be a far more traumatic sequel.
It is a tragedy that Irene Nemirovsky never got to finish this emotional novel of humanity under stress, which I found a compelling read.
Hard to say more, but read it and marvel at the beauty of the prose, the scope of the vision (never completed, sadly) and the depth of humanity in the characters described.
A wealth of characters beckon the reader in this unfinished novel, it is such a pity that we only have a glimpse of the endings Nemirovsky considered for her central characters from the appendix. The reader can identify with the moral struggle of the characters Lucille and Bruno in Dolce, as they develop feelings which cannot hope to have a future.
I found this book truly immersive, with all the elements of a great novel. It has powerful characters, beautiful vocabulary and the two sections link well together It is a novel I would happily read over again
This was the best book I have read for a long time, and I strongly recommend it.