Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Book Review: 'Suite Francaise' by Irene Nemirovsky

"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." 

I read it!

What's it about?

Suite Francaise is a tale of a nation invaded; it takes place when Germany first occupies France. The first section follows fleeing Parisians, whilst the second follows the people living in the countryside villages they flee too. However it's often sold on the fact that its author, Irene Nemirovsky, died in the Holocaust. She was a Russian Jew living in France, transported to Auschwitz. This tragedy permeates this half finished novel, making its themes all the more potent.

What I liked...

The depiction of the time period. It was vivid and clearly described. I felt like I learnt something whilst reading this book, which is always rewarding.

I also enjoyed the characters: some of them were awful, but I liked them that way. They were realistic: just normal people under extraordinary circumstances. They showed both resilience and cowardice, and weren't stereotypical heroes.

Irene's projections for the rest of the novel: she wanted it to have five sections rather than the two she got to write. I loved the links between the two sections, when a character from one turned up in another. And I've never read a book with such an interesting appendix.

What I disliked...

The writing. I found it quite clunky, especially the way character's innermost thoughts were revealed.

The love story. I just didn't need it, didn't feel it, didn't like it.

Would I recommend?

Yes, but more as a historical text than of great writing. Don't get me wrong, it was very interesting and I respect Nemirovsky greatly. However it wasn't a read that enthralled me in that way that passes interesting. I wouldn't recommend it unless I'd be quite interested to see the film though.

(Note: I apologise for my shoddy punctuation throughout this post.)

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