Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky – what a fantastic book. It is an intriguing story set in 1940 during the early years of German occupation of France. It is a story of despair, fear, chaos but also in the end – HOPE.
In the first chapter of Suite Française, STORM, Irène portrays the life of the people of France where they have to flee their homes, hiding in the fields, and flee to the neighbouring cities.
The different characters are portrayed so well;
– The rich holding on to their treasures – carrying them with them or hiding it in cellars in their homes in a hope not to lose anything they have worked for so hard.
– The farmers holding on to their farms.
– A priest sacrificing his life so that he can “save” a few orphans – was it worth giving his life for a few juvenile delinquent young men that do not know any love or affection.
The only thing that matters in the end is SURVIVAL. The enemy takes over the homes of the French people – they have no choice but to surrender their homes – some in the end even become friends with the Germans. The people of France gets use to the Germans and watch them out of curiosity as they celebrate their victory – some of the French people even think to themselves “Are the Germans really such bad people?” They are beginning to see them in a new light. They are also just people.
In the second part of Suite Française – DOLCE – it tells the story of Lucy, the daughter- in-law of a rich landowner who falls in love with a German soldier, Bruce who stays in their home. Her husband was taken prisoner by the Germans. She does not love her husband and gets more and more involved with the German. What will happen when Bruce has to leave and go back to Germany? Will she be trapped in this house with her mother-in-law forever? She gets a chance to finally flee by agreeing to hide a neighbouring farmer who has killed a German soldier in their house. She agrees to take him to some friends in Paris to escape the Germans. What will the future hold for her?
The Appendixes of the book give us a preview of the live of Irène Némirovsky. She is a Russian Jew who was taken away by Germans soldiers to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where she dies on 17th August 1942.