Irène Némirovsky’s posthumous Suite Française has become a publishing phenomenon, selling more than half a million copies since its publication in 2006. As those who know it are keenly aware, Némirovsky was killed by the Nazis before she had a chance to write the last three sections of what she intended to be a five-part work. As Claire Messud wrote in Bookforum, Némirovsky’s “hope in the midst of hopelessness . . . is a rare gift.”
As they were being deported to concentration camps, Némirovsky and her husband, like so many other German Jews, sent their two young daughters, then five and seven, to live under assumed identities—in this case in a Catholic boarding school in the south of France—which enabled them to survive the war. The younger daughter, Elisabeth Gille, became a well-known French publisher, and chronicled her wartime experiences in her own novel, Shadows of a Childhood.
Originally published long before the manuscript of Suite Française was discovered, Shadows of a Childhood is now available for Némirovsky fans who want to know more about the circumstances of her death and her daughters’ survival. Gille’s haunting novel is a moving sequel to her mother’s masterpiece and an important part of an extraordinary family’s literary legacy.