Suite Francaise

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"By the early 1940s, when Ukrainian-born Irene Nemirovsky began working on what would become Suite Francaise - the first two parts of a planned five-part novel - she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz: a month later she was dead at the age of thirty-nine. Two years earlier, living in a small village in central France - where she, her husband, and their two small daughters had fled in a vain attempt to elude the Nazis - she'd begun her novel, a
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Overview

"By the early 1940s, when Ukrainian-born Irene Nemirovsky began working on what would become Suite Francaise - the first two parts of a planned five-part novel - she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz: a month later she was dead at the age of thirty-nine. Two years earlier, living in a small village in central France - where she, her husband, and their two small daughters had fled in a vain attempt to elude the Nazis - she'd begun her novel, a luminous portrayal of a human drama in which she herself would become a victim. When she was arrested, she had completed two parts of the epic; her daughters took the manuscript with them into hiding. Sixty-four years later, at long last, we can read Nemirovsky's literary masterpiece" The first part, "A Storm in June," opens in the chaos of the massive 1940 exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion, during which several families and individuals are thrown together under circumstances beyond their control. In the second part, "Dolce," we enter the increasingly complex life of a German-occupied provincial village. Coexisting uneasily with the soldiers billeted among them, the villagers - from aristocrats to shopkeepers to peasants - cope as best they can.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
With these two novellas, Holocaust victim Irène Némirovsky accomplished the daunting task of translating the unspeakable horror and chaos of war -- at the precise moment it was exploding all around her -- into luminous, coherent, and masterfully crafted fiction. Conceived by the author as two parts in a series, the stories of Suite Française were preserved by Némirovsky's daughters after the author was deported to Auschwitz in 1942. A literary treasure of enormous magnitude, these powerful tales of grace and disgrace in the midst of crisis have, at last, found a grateful audience.
Paul Gray
The improbable survival of her two novellas is a cause for celebration and also for grief at another reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust. She wrote what may be the first work of fiction about what we now call World War II. She also wrote, for all to read at last, some of the greatest, most humane and incisive fiction that conflict has produced.
— The New York Times
Ruth Kruger
While diaries give us a day-to-day record, their very inclusiveness can lead to tedium; memoirs, on the other hand, written at a later date, search for highlights and illuminate the past from the vantage point of the present. In Némirovsky's Suite Française we have the perfect mixture: a gifted novelist's account of a foreign occupation, written while it was taking place, with history and imagination jointly evoking a bitter time, correcting and enriching our memory.
— The Washington Post
La Croix (Paris)
One of the great 20th century authors ... A gigantic literary and historical gift
L'Express
A work of exceptional force... remarkable because written not after, but during, the war.
Publishers Weekly
HighBridge has chosen exceptional readers for these remarkable novellas. Oreskes reads "Storm in June" in a clear, low storyteller's voice, changing tone to designate characters without trying to act out or be those characters. He handles Nemirovsky's black humor and irony with intelligence, and understates to great effect reactions from haughtiness to decency in the midst of panic and death as masses suddenly rush from Paris in the wake of Nazi bombings in 1940. Rosenblat has a husky Lauren Bacall voice that draws you into the dialectically complex relationship between French villagers and German occupiers in "Dolce." This is not a diary or a novel written years later in cool contemplation. These are historical novellas written while the author lived through the events. Yet with the detachment of hindsight and the craft of a fine, experienced author (she had successfully published nine novels), Nemirovsky shapes into novel form the stories of a small gallery of French Parisians and villagers and occupying German officers and soldiers, each with his or her national and personal idiosyncrasies and destinies. This was to have been the first of five novellas in an ongoing war saga, but in 1942 the Germans discovered the Jewish writer living in a small village. She was arrested and shipped to Auschwitz, and died a month later. Simultaneous release with the Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 13). (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
N mirovsky (1903-42), a Sorbonne-educated Jewish migr born into a wealthy Russian family, had planned to write a five-part novel documenting the turmoil of Nazi-occupied France. Instead, she was deported in 1942 and died in Auschwitz. Her daughters hid their mother's notebook in a valise, and it remained unread for over 60 years. This Knopf edition includes the first two books of the projected quintet, as well as appendixes with the author's notes and correspondence, and the preface to the French edition. The latter includes biographical information that tells the remarkable story of the book's provenance. Part 1, "Storm in June," describes the panic and confusion accompanying several Parisian families' exodus to the countryside as the Germans enter Paris. The pettiness of an arriviste banker and his mistress contrasts sharply with his employees' acts of courage the kind of heroism of ordinary people that history generally does not record. Part 2, "Dolce," relates the complicated relationships between the occupying Wehrmacht army and French peasants, village merchants, and ruling class aristocracy. Some resisted, some cooperated as necessary, while others welcomed the conqueror into their arms. "Dolce" illuminates wartime economies of scarcity, the brutality of martial law (anyone caught with a radio risked immediate execution), and cultural hegemony (church bells were reset to German time). Throughout the narrative, the uncertain plight of two million French prisoners of war and painful memories of previous invasions haunt the characters. In a notebook excerpt, N mirovsky reminds herself to "simplify" the language and the narrative. The result is a world-class "you-are-there" proto-epic that is essential for all fiction and European history collections. Mark Andr Singer, Mechanics' Inst. Lib., San Francisco Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Acclaimed in France and the U.K., here are two sections of a hugely ambitious novel about World War II France, plus authorial notes and correspondence; the remaining three sections were never written, for the already established Russo-French-Jewish author died at Auschwitz in 1942. These sections should be seen as movements in the symphony Nemirovsky envisaged. Part one, Storm in June, follows various civilians fleeing a panicky Paris and a victorious German army in June 1940. Here are the Pericands, middle-class Catholics, secure in their car; Madame offers charity to refugees on foot, but strictly for show. There is Gabriel Corte, famous writer and "privileged creature" (so he thinks); Charles Langelet, the ice-cold aesthete who steals gasoline from innocents; Corbin, the obnoxious bank director who forces his employees, the Michauds, out of his car. They can handle that; they're an admirable couple, sustained by their humility and mutual devotion. What interests Nemirovsky is individual behavior in the harsh glare of national crisis; keeping the Germans in the background, she skewers the hypocrisy, pretension and self-involvement of the affluent Parisians. There is no chaos or cross-cutting between multiple characters in part two, Dolce. Here the focus is on one middle-class household in a village in the occupied zone in 1941. Madame Angellier agonizes over her son Gaston, a POW; her daughter-in-law Lucile, who never loved him (he kept a mistress), is less concerned; the women co-exist uncomfortably. Tensions rise when a young German lieutenant, Bruno, is billeted with them; he and Lucile are drawn to each other, though they do not become lovers. Then another complication: Lucileagrees to shelter a peasant who has shot a German officer. An honest soul, Lucile is forced into duplicity with Bruno; Nemirovsky relishes these crisis-induced contradictions. Her nuanced account is as much concerned with class divisions among the villagers as the indignities of occupation; when the soldiers leave for the Russian front, the moment is surprisingly tender. A valuable window into the past, and the human psyche. This is important work. First printing of 75,000
From the Publisher
“Stunning. . . . A tour de force.” —The New York Times Book Review“Remarkable.” —Newsweek“[Némirovsky] sees the fullness of humanity. . . . A lost masterpiece.” —O, the Oprah Magazine“Gripping. . . . Brilliant. . . . Endlessly fascinating.” —The Nation“Transcendent, astonishing. . . . The last great fiction of the war.” —The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette“Superb.” —The Washington Post Book World“Extraordinary. . . . A work of Proustian scope and delicacy, by turns funny and deeply moving.” —Time
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594132117
  • Publisher: Large Print Distribution
  • Publication date: 4/10/2007
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 715
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


IRÈNE NÉMIROVSKY was born in Kiev in 1903, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish banker. She and her family fled Russia in 1918 and arrived in France the following year. Educated at the Sorbonne, well-connected and multilingual, she lived a privileged émigré life and became one of the most celebrated authors of her day. Némirovsky published five novels before being arrested by the Vichy government.

In addition to his Broadway appearances, DANIEL ORESKES has appeared in such films as The Thomas Crown and Devil's Advocate. His TV credits include The Sopranos, Third Watch, Law & Order, New York News, and The High Life. He has been honored for his audiobook narration of The House of Scorta and Suite Française.

Multiple Audie® Award winner Barbara Rosenblat has been named a "Voice of the Twentieth Century" by AudioFile magazine. The New York Times writes,"Watch Ms. Rosenblat work...and you get the sense that even an Oscar winner might not be able to pull this off." She created the role of "Mrs. Medlock" in the Tony® Award-winning Broadway musical The Secret Garden.

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Read an Excerpt

Suite Francaise


By Irene Nemirovsky

Random House

Irene Nemirovsky
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1400044731


Chapter One

1

War

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: "Comeon, 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 one another, 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.



2

In the Péricand household they listened in shocked silence to the evening news on the radio, but no one passed comment on the latest developments. The Péricands were a cultivated family: their traditions, their way of thinking, their middle-class, Catholic background, their ties with the Church (their eldest son, Philippe Péricand, was a priest), all these things made them mistrustful of the government of France. On the other hand, Monsieur Péricand's position as curator of one of the country's national museums bound them to an administration that showered its faithful with honours and financial rewards.

A cat held a little piece of bony fish tentatively between its sharp teeth. He was afraid to swallow it, but he couldn't bring himself to spit it out either.

Madame Péricand finally decided that only a male mind could explain with clarity such strange, serious events. Neither her husband nor her eldest son was at home: her husband was dining with friends, her son was not in Paris. Charlotte Péricand, who ruled the family's daily life with an iron hand (whether it was managing the household, her children's education or her husband's career), was not in the habit of seeking anyone's opinion. But this was of a different order. She needed a voice of authority to tell her what to believe. Once pointed in the right direction, there would be no stopping her. Even if given absolute proof she was mistaken, she would reply with a cold, condescending smile, "My father said so . . . My husband is very well-informed." And she would make a dismissive little gesture with her gloved hand.

She took pride in her husband's position (she herself would have preferred a more domestic lifestyle, but following the example of our Dear Saviour, each of us has his cross to bear). She had come home between appointments to oversee her children's studies, the baby's bottles and the servants' work, but she didn't have time to take off her hat and coat. For as long as the Péricand children could remember, their mother was always ready to go out, armed with hat and white gloves. (Since she was thrifty, her mended gloves had the faint smell of stain remover, a reminder of their passage through the dry-cleaners.)

As soon as she had come in this evening, she had gone to stand in front of the radio in the drawing room. Her clothes were black, her hat a divine little creation in fashion that season, decorated with three flowers and topped with a silk pom-pom. Beneath it, her face was pale and anguished, emphasising the marks of age and fatigue. She was forty-seven years old and had five children. You would have thought, to look at her, that God had intended her to be a redhead. Her skin was extremely delicate, lined by the passing years. Freckles were dotted over her strong, majestic nose. The expression in her green eyes was as sharp as a cat's. At the last minute, however, it seemed that Providence had wavered, or decided that a shock of red hair would not be appropriate, neither to Madame Péricand's irreproachable morals nor to her social status, so she had been given mousy brown hair, which she was losing by the handful since she'd had her last child. Monsieur Péricand was a man of great discipline: his religious scruples prohibited a number of pleasures and his concern for his reputation kept him away from places of ill repute. The youngest Péricand child was only two, and between Father Philippe and the baby, there were three other children, not counting the ones Madame Péricand discreetly referred to as the "three accidents": babies she had carried almost to term before losing them, so that three times their mother had been on the verge of death.

The drawing room, where the radio was now playing, was enormous and well-proportioned, with four windows overlooking the Boulevard Delessert. It was furnished in traditional style, with large armchairs and settees upholstered in golden yellow. Next to the balcony, the elder Monsieur Péricand sat in his wheelchair. He was an invalid whose advancing age meant that he sometimes lapsed back into childhood and only truly returned to his right mind when discussing his fortune, which was considerable (he was a Péricand-Maltête, heir of the Maltête family of Lyon). But the war, with its trials and tribulations, no longer affected him. He listened, indifferent, steadily nodding his beautiful silvery beard. The children stood in a semi-circle behind their mother, the youngest in his nanny's arms. Nanny had three sons of her own at the front. She had brought the little boy downstairs to say goodnight to his family and took advantage of her brief entry into the drawing room to listen anxiously to what they were saying on the radio.

The door was slightly ajar and Madame Péricand could sense the presence of the other servants outside. Madeleine, the maid, was so beside herself with worry that she came right up to the doorway. To Madame Péricand, such a breach of the normal rules seemed a frightening indication of things to come. It was in just this manner that the different social classes all ended up on the top deck during a shipwreck. But working-class people were highly strung. "How they do get carried away," Madame Péricand thought reproachfully. She was one of those middle-class women who generally trust the lower classes. "They're not so bad if you know how to deal with them," she would say in the same condescending and slightly sad tone she used to talk of a caged animal. She was proud that she kept her servants for a long time. She insisted on looking after them when they were ill. When Madeleine had had a sore throat, Madame Péricand herself had prepared her gargle. Since she had no time to administer it during the day, she had waited until she got back from the theatre in the evening. Madeleine had woken up with a start and had only expressed her gratitude afterwards, and even then, rather coldly in Madame Péricand's opinion. Well, that's the lower classes for you, never satisfied, and the more you go out of your way to help them, the more ungrateful and moody they are. But Madame Péricand expected no reward except from God.

She turned towards the shadowy figures in the hallway and said with great kindness, "You may come and listen to the news if you like."

"Thank you, Madame," the servants murmured respectfully and slipped into the room on tiptoe.

They all came in: Madeleine; Marie; Auguste, the valet and finally Maria, the cook, embarrassed because her hands smelled of fish. But the news was over. Now came the commentaries on the situation: "Serious, of course, but not alarming," the speaker assured everyone. He spoke in a voice so full, so calm, so effortless, and used such a resonant tone each time he said the words "France," "Homeland" and "Army," that he instilled hope in the hearts of his listeners. He had a particular way of reading such communiqués as "The enemy is continuing relentless attacks on our positions but is encountering the most valiant resistance from our troops." He said the first part of the sentence in a soft, ironic, scornful tone of voice, as if to imply, "At least that's what they'd like us to think." But in the second part he stressed each syllable, hammering home the adjective "valiant" and the words "our troops" with such confidence that people couldn't help thinking, "Surely there's no reason to worry so much!"

Madame Péricand saw the questioning, hopeful stares directed towards her. "It doesn't seem absolutely awful to me!" she said confidently. Not that she believed it; she just felt it was her duty to keep up morale.

Maria and Madeleine let out a sigh.

"You think so, Madame?"

Hubert, the second-eldest son, a boy of seventeen with chubby pink cheeks, seemed the only one struck with despair and amazement. He dabbed nervously at his neck with a crumpled-up handkerchief and shouted in a voice that was so piercing it made him hoarse, "It isn't possible! It isn't possible that it's come to this! But, Mummy, what has to happen before they call everyone up? Right away--every man between sixteen and sixty! That's what they should do, don't you think so, Mummy?"

He ran into the study and came back with a large map, which he spread out on the table, frantically measuring the distances. "We're finished, I'm telling you, finished, unless . . ."

Hope was restored. "I see what they're going to do," he finally announced, with a big happy smile that revealed his white teeth. "I can see it very well. We'll let them advance, advance, and then we'll be waiting for them there and there, look, see, Mummy! Or even . . ."

"Yes, yes," said his mother. "Go and wash your hands now, and push back that bit of hair that keeps falling into your eyes. Just look at you."

Fury in his heart, Hubert folded up his map. Only Philippe took him seriously, only Philippe spoke to him as an equal. "How I hate this family," he said to himself and kicked violently at his little brother's toys as he left the drawing room. Bernard began to cry. "That'll teach him about life," Hubert thought.

The nanny hurried to take Bernard and Jacqueline out of the room; the baby, Emmanuel, was already asleep over her shoulder. Holding Bernard's hand, she strode through the door, crying for her three sons whom she imagined already dead, all of them.

Continues...


Excerpted from Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 Storm in June 1
2 Dolce 191
App. I Irene Nemirovsky's handwritten notes on the situation in France and her plans for Suite Francaise, taken from her notebooks 341
App. II Correspondence 1936-1945 359
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Reading Group Guide

1. The Péricands were mistrustful of the government, yet “Monsieur Péricand’s position as curator of the country’s national museums bound them to an administration that showered its faithful with honours and financial rewards” [p. 6]. Given their wealth and social position, is it unsurprising that people like the Péricands would collaborate with the Vichy government? Does the novel present moral failure as understandable or repellent?

2. In the exodus from Paris, Gabriel Corte is looking at the people around him: “‘Such ugliness…such hideous faces!’ Overcome, he turned round to face inside the car and closed his eyes. . . . ‘Did you see that horrible old woman beside us with her birdcage and bloodstained bandages?’” [pp. 47–48]. Corte is a successful novelist. What kind of sensibility does he have? How does he differ, as an observer of life, from Némirovsky?

3. Madame Michaud longs for news of her son Jean-Marie, who is a soldier. In chapter 12, she and Maurice are present when German bombs strike a train carrying wounded French soldiers. Jean-Marie is on this train, though his parents don’t know it, and they eventually return home still longing for news of him. Later, having stolen gasoline from a young couple on the road and finally arrived at home, the aesthete Charles Langelet is killed by a car driven by Arlette, Corbin’s ex-mistress. Discuss the effects of this approach to plot construction, in which Némirovsky directs the movements of characters whose paths converge and diverge in unexpected ways.

4. “In spite of the exhaustion, the hunger, the fear, Maurice Michaud was not really unhappy. He had a unique way of thinking: he didn’t consider himself that important; in his own eyes he was not that rare and irreplaceable creature most people imagine when they think about themselves” [pp. 54–55]. Why is Maurice “unique” in this? Given the novel’s broad array of selfish and narcissistic characters, do the Michauds seem to stand as models of moral decency?

5. Consider the following two passages:

“The glass roof shattered and exploded outwards, wounding and killing the people in the square. Panic-stricken, some of the women threw down their babies as if they were cumbersome packages and ran. Others grabbed their children and held them so tightly they seemed to want to force them back into the womb, as if that were the only truly safe place” [p. 60].

“Machine-guns fired on the convoy. Death was gliding across the sky and suddenly plunged down from the heavens, wings outstretched, steel beak firing on this long line of trembling black insects crawling along the road. Everyone threw themselves to the ground; women lay of top of their children to protect them. When the firing stopped, deep furrows were left in the crowd, like wheat after a storm when the fallen stems form close, deep trenches” [p. 82].

What characteristics of style, vision, or sensibility make Némirovsky’s descriptive writing so powerful?

6. Arlette, the dancer who is one of the banker Corbin’s mistresses, has ensconced herself in Tours where she provides Hubert Péricand with his first sexual experience. What motivates Arlette, and how does she manage to survive so well in the world [pp. 94–103]?

7. Chapter 20 of “Storm in June” is told from the perspective of the Péricands’ cat Albert [pp. 104–107]. What details does the cat perceive? What does Némirovsky’s desire to include this playful chapter in the story tell us about her vision as a novelist?

8. Carmen Callil, author of Bad Faith, a widely hailed biography of a Vichy collaborator, observes, “Némirovsky has a particular talent, a nearness to her readers, so that you almost feel the flesh of the characters she creates, however vile, rapacious and idiotic they may be. This is where she is irresistible—addictive—so that once you pick up one of her novels, you cannot put it down” [The Guardian, February 3, 2007]. Which characters, either good or bad, come most powerfully to life, and what particular details about them are most striking?

9. Is it surprising that Father Philippe’s instincts about the nature of the orphan boys was correct [p. 24]? What do the scenes in chapter 25 suggest about Némirovsky’s perspective on human evil? What is the effect of reading the scenes that describe his fate [pp. 135–144]?

10. Némirovsky brilliantly delineates class tensions and resentments throughout Suite Française. The man in the battered Citroën, first commented upon with disgust by Gabriel Corte [p. 48], has stolen Corte’s picnic basket and his family enjoys a bottle of champagne and an elegant lunch. The woman with the bandaged head, wounded and possibly widowed, thinks, “Privileges, exemptions, connections, all that was for the middle classes. Deep in her heart were layer upon layer of hatred, overlapping yet distinct: the countrywoman’s hatred, who instinctively detests city people, the servant’s hatred, weary and bitter at having lived in other people’s houses, the worker’s hatred” [pp. 71–72]. Does Némirovsky suggest that these hatreds among the French are partially to blame for their defeat by the Germans? Or do you see them simply as indicating Némirovsky’s gifts as a social realist?

11. In the village of Bussy, the women think of the occupying Germans as “our masters,” and look at them “with a mixture of desire and hatred. (The enemy? Of course. But they were also men, and young . . .)” [p. 213]. How is this ambivalent mix of desire and hatred expressed in relations between the French women and the Germans in “Dolce”?

12. In sentences like the following, Némirovsky demonstrates how attached the French are to their material possessions: “Life in the provinces of central France is affluent and primitive; everyone keeps to himself, rules over his own domain, reaps his own wheat and counts his own money” [p. 217]. Which scenes and characters demonstrate this material attachment most clearly? Does Némirovsky seem to be critical of this aspect of bourgeois life? What are its implications for the ways people behave toward each other?

13. Thinking of her arranged marriage to Gaston Angellier, Lucile “realised how very empty was her heart; it had always been empty—empty of love, empty of jealous hatred” [p. 218]. But in her attraction to Bruno, “she was almost afraid of the feelings growing within her. It was like stroking a wild animal—an exquisitely intense sensation, a mixture of tenderness and terror” [p. 295]. Bruno later says, “Waiting is erotic” [p. 324]. How effectively does the tension generated by this attraction between Lucile and Bruno drive the narrative in “Dolce”?

14. How is Lucile changed by her decision to help Benoît Sabarie? What does she mean when she says to herself, “I’ve already chosen . . . in spite of myself. And I thought I was free” [p. 338]. Why does she reject Bruno, and is it admirable of her to do so?

15. At the beginning of her personal notebook Némirovsky wrote, “My God! what is this country doing to me? Since it is rejecting me, let us consider it coldly, let us watch as it loses its honour and its life. And the other countries? What are they to me? Empires are dying. Nothing matters. . . . Let us keep a cool head. Let us harden our heart. Let us wait” [p. 373]. In what ways do you see this cool, observant perspective realized in the novel?

16. Némirovsky wrote in her notebook, “Never forget that the war will be over and that the entire historical side will fade away. Try to create as much as possible: things, debates . . . that will interest people in 1952 or 2052. Reread Tolstoy. Inimitable descriptions but not historical” [p. 383]. What does this entry emphasize about Némirovsky’s interest in observation and description? What do the notebook entries convey about her writing process, the overall arc of the intended work, and her frame of mind as she wrote?

17. Much has been made in the literary press of the fact that Némirovsky did not include any Jewish characters in the novel. Why might she have made such a choice?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 98 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Enlightening

    While most reviews of this book I've ever read place the bulk of its importance on the fact that its author died during the Holocaust, I think that it stands as an excellent piece of literature alone, detached from its author's sad death. I believe it could easily take its place in the literary canon.

    Nemirovsky was an excellent author who truly captured the human experience with remarkable clarity. It made me completely re-evaluate the entire way I looked at World War II (and I have studied that conflict a lot). I am saddened that its greatness is often glazed over when most people discuss it, with their attention focused on the author's death. Quite frankly, I think her life and her work is much more important than the horrible things the Nazi did to her.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2008

    Alas, I want to know how it ends!

    What a great book! The characters were so engrossing, so real. She was on the run when she wrote this, I know, but how her mind worked so clearly while in such danger is beyond me. What imagination! At our Lazy Girls Book Club in February 2008 we said that we will ask her in heaven how she intended to continue and then wrap up the characters' lives. You will enjoy this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2007

    One of my all time favorites!

    This book is so beautiful that it makes you cry, curse, laugh and smile all at once. Nemirovsky was a BRILLIANT writer, and the stories told within Suite Francaise are absolute masterpieces. The author captures the emotions of war and love expertly, and she is one of the rare authors who writes with an authority that makes her tales more realistic than a movie could. Words cannot describe how brilliant this book is, unless if you read the words contained in the book itself. Suite Francaise is a must read for anyone who loves books!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2006

    A Profoundly Beautiful Book

    I had never heard of Irene Nemirovsky before reading Paul Gray¿s review in the New York Times. In a casual conversation with a friend who also loves to read, I mentioned how intriguing Suite Française sounded. Little did I know that it would become one of my most cherished gifts a few days later. Suite Française is a beautifully written book. I am in awe of both Nemirovsky¿s gifts and that of her translator, Sandra Smith. If a translation can read with such grace and immediacy, I find it hard to imagine what it must be like to immerse oneself in the original. There are many rather surprising things about the book to this reader. All characters come across as believable. The qualities and defects of the cast are portrayed as part of the human condition much more so than as national traits ¿ and national traits are compassionately accepted as part of the human condition. The Germans are not portrayed so much as the enemy. War is the enemy. The warring instinct of nations is seen as a force over which the common human is powerless. Nemirovsky seems to be portraying our plight as an attempt to steal some moments of love and happiness between and even during times of conflict. The plight of the Jews is never treated. Especially, when the reader knows how the author met her death, this comes as a surprise. The inclusion of her correspondence and that of her husband as an appendix is most enlightening and profoundly disturbing. In fact, that is the most disturbing part of the whole volume. This book was a rare and deeply rewarding find. I am only afraid that by publishing this reader¿s review I may have spoiled the surprise of the next gift-giving occasion for friends who love to read as much as I.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A more contemporary classic

    I enjoyed the book. I think it's important to look at it in the aspect of the writer's personal history...as well as a history to which she was a witness. I don't think her intention was to portray the Jewish plight (as stated on the back over---it was the French that she focused on: Suite Francaise). I think it's a subject that hasn't received the attention that the holocaust has and therefore provides a different aspect of the war. Interesting read for sure. Some Advanced Placement teachers have been using this as a text in their classrooms. I didn't enjoy it to that extent, myself.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Angela shikany

    Too expensive.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 25, 2011

    VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

    I HAD THIS BOOK FOR A LONG TIME, FINALLY GOT AROUND TO READING IT AND SO GLAD I DID.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    Rich sociological inside story of the German occupation of France during WWII

    It consist on two different books which are slightly related, presumably the autor intended to write more parts but was detained and taken to Austchwitz concentration camp due to her Jewish condition, long before, the time of completion.
    The time is the Second World War, France undergoing the German occupation, not and epic tale but a dissection of the social fabric of the French society living under this extraordinary circunstances, basically it focus on how they feel leaving their Paris homes in the first volume and how the people of the rural town of Bussy interact with the German soldiers billeted in their homes in the second. It sharply focus on the exchanges happening in this forced temporal relationship, bringing about small stories, refined with many remarks that can be deemed as pieces of wisdom. Though the author was born in Russia, the tale is written from the viewpoint of someone who has a wide knowledge of the way of life of the French society, particularly the Middle and Upper Middle classes. The ending, at the time, the German army leaves for the Eastern front in Russia, allows as I have mentioned, for a sequel. Almost no reference to Hitler, Nazi, Allied Forces and other typical elements of the WWII is being made, so it is a very distinct tale.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2011

    Don't miss this jewel!

    Does it get any better than this? Beautifully written, believable characters, and an spellbinding story line make this book impossible to put down. Perfect!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Moving and Poignant

    The novel is poignant and moving... but considering it was never finished and the circumstances surrounding Nemirovsky's life during WWII... it makes a tremendous impact. You must read the notes and correspondence following the novel to understand the relevance the story has to life during the war. Amazing book... highly recommended.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2010

    A must read!

    A fascinating look at Paris burning and the massive exit from the city during World War II seen through the eyes of the author who (while writing this book)was living in the french countryside until her capture by the Nazis. The french and german characters are spell binding and will keep you wanting to turn page after page. Although the author never finishes Sweet Francaise and what is amazing is that her lack of an ending does not shape her book or affect a beautifully written story.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    A stunning and heartbreaking book. I could not put it down.

    Suite Francaise is one of the most important books I have read in some time. I have given it to several people and have recommended it to several more. Without exception, every person to whom I have givin or recommended the book thanked me.

    How tragic that Irene Nemirovsky perished in a concentration camp and we were robbed of her talent. I believe that Suite Francaise should be required reading in every high school in America, perhaps the world.

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  • Posted February 13, 2010

    Superior Story Made Powerful By Author's Gift of Description

    Effective, powerful writing plus strong subject matter equals an engrossing book that succeeds in telling a unique story of often-told subject matter.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    Terrific

    An intimate look at a time and place which are unfamiliar--and unimaginable--to most of us. The characters and storylines are fascinating.

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  • Posted October 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    To Truly Appreciate The Book Read Don't Skip Section Related to the Author

    To truly appreciate this book it is important to understand the circumstances of the author. With that knowledge this piece is a fascinating read. I did find the first section difficult to get into because of the choppy development of the characters. However, I really appricated her ability to humanize the German soldiers during a time she was apprehensive about her fate. It is interesting to contemplate how the subsequest sections would have developed if she had lived to see the progress of the war

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  • Posted June 4, 2009

    Best foreign novel I've read

    This book had the most captivating first chapter, which says a lot about a book. The first chapter wasn't even about specific people! Needless to say, I was hooked. There are two parts ("books"), and the first is about a big, rich family, a painter and his mistress, and a poor couple who only have each other. These people are fleeing from Paris and the Nazis with floods of people along with them. The second part is about some of the people mentioned in the first who didn't really make an appearance and other people in a small French town occupied by the Nazis. While translated from French, this is a remarkably readable book. This is the only book I can honestly call gripping, and it is slightly sad and grim while also being light-hearted at times.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

    I had expected this book to be a holocaust story, or a kind of diary, but it is not. It is focused around people fleeing Paris for the countryside as the Germans approach during WWII, and then various people's experiences during the occupation. The lives of several people - many of them bordering on caricatures - are followed, so there are interwoven story lines. The author's use of language is lovely, the circumstances are engrossing, and the whole thing tragic especially since she was ultimately deported.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2008

    Mischaracterization of subject of book

    It is disappointing to find Suite Francais listed under books about 'Jewish History'. One of the often noted weaknesses of this book is that it never mentions the Jewish population of France in its account of the French grappling with fear, denial and cruelty to one another during the Nazi occupation. It is difficult to understand how the author--herself Jewish--ignored all aspects of the impact of the Nazi occupation and the French complicity with it on the Jews of France. While she was certainly free to write about any fictionalized account she wanted, this book is clearly not about Jewish History and should be listed under a different subject. Finally, the book is simply not that well-written. There are absolutely no likeable characters in it -- it is not possible to feel sympathy, empathy or even concern for the characters. This book simply does not merit the ovations it has heretofor received.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2007

    Good buy not overly impressed

    The beginning of the novel was very hard for me to get into as I found I detested the main characters with the exception of Michaud's. I kept thinking that it has to get better and it does half way through the book. I found the writing style to be hard to follow at times and overly descriptive to point that it takes away from the story line. The end of the book second half of the novel made up for the first half of the story. I would never put this book in a list of must reads or favorites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2007

    Memories, revisited

    I just finished this profoundly moving book. Knowing it's an unfinished work, Nemerowsky had only been able to complete two parts of her planned five-part novel, I didn't care. Some of my relatives survived a pogrom from Russia during the early 1900's and I was always grateful that none of the ones I knew had to endure the horrors of the Holocaust. It doesn't make it any easier knowing that this wonderful author's voice was silenced for no good reason. I was caught up in the lives of the characters, the Marchands, Corte, the Pericands and the rest, feeling sorry for some, grateful that others came through the flight from Paris virtually unscathed and understanding the Karma of those who denigrated those beneath them. It is a wonderful book. The saddest part is the correspondence between the author, her husband, and those who tried to help, but ultimately failed in the face of so much. Brava to Denise and Elizabeth Nemerowsky who were able to bring their mother's work to publication. Bless them both!

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