Book Reviews,  Europe,  FICTION,  Nazis

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemorovsky ** (of 4)

According to the NY Times, this stunning book contains two narratives, one fiction and the other a fragmentary, factual account of how the fiction came into being about life in France under Hitler’s occupation. I don’t get what all the hype is about, however. Nemerovsky completed two-fifths of what she imagined to be a five parter, like a symphony. The first describes the Nazi invasion of France, seen through eyes of upper-crust Frenchmen forced to do without some of their accustomed privileges as they flee with the chaotic hordes to the rural areas around Paris. The second is life under occupation, and the interactions of French families with billeted Nazis. Both accounts feel like first drafts. The characters and action are superficial; I found it difficult to connect. A far better account of the war and Nazi occupation can be found inĀ Corelli’s Mandolin. I think what makes the critics react are the appendices. Nemerovsky sensed she was going to die at the hands of the Germans. She had an excuse to be writing in a hurry. That sense of reality hanging over the book is more powerful than the book itself. July 2006.