Book Reviews of Suite Francaise

Suite Francaise
ISBN-13: 9781400044733
ISBN-10: 1400044731
Publication Date: 4/11/2006
Pages: 416
Edition: Translatio
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.

3.6 stars, based on 113 ratings
Publisher: Knopf
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

41 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Suite Francaise on
Helpful Score: 19
After all the media hype over the discovery of this manuscript following the author's tragic death, I was really looking forward to reading this book. Alas, this was one of the most boring and difficult books I've attempted to read in the past few years.

I don't know if something was lost in translation, but the prose was flat, dull and the characters were not likeable. I tried, giving it the 100 page rule, but in the end I put it back in the bag and took it back to the bookstore to exchange.

I think the backstory of the author's experience, her deportation to Auschwitz and subsequent death, and then the 'discovery' of this manuscript would have made for a more interesting novel. Perhaps others will enjoy this, but it didn't live up to the hype for me.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 18
I had high expectations for this book. Several times in the beginning I almost quit reading it. I found the book to be hard to follow and not very captivating. However, the last 100 - 150 pages did get better. At the end of the book I did find myself satisfied and glad I had read it. All in all it was a good glimpse of a very difficult time in history.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 38 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
This was a very powerful read for me. Nemirovsky's prose is so beautiful and full; she wrote with such detail that I could picture the characters in my mind just perfectly. The little twist at the end really caught me off guard and made the awful situation all the more real. I loved this book and it will be on my mind long after I've shipped it away to another reader.
reviewed Suite Francaise on
Helpful Score: 9
I though it was an extraordinary and sensitive book written in the middle of the horrors of world word 2. Remarkable awareness of the human condition by a relatively young woman. Obviously a highly intelligent and well educated woman.

Though not a finished novel, to me it felt complete and highly satisfying. It amazes me that other reviewers have said they could "not get into it". I could not put it down and ready it in two sittings.

Great fiction, great writer.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 33 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
It is a work of fiction, but sometimes reads like non-fiction. I found myself absorbed in it. Yes, it is an incomplete work. It is tragic that the author was killed before it could be completed. I found it to be a fascinating glimpse into the personal horrors and human reactions to war. The appendices tell the rest of the story, and that story is true and more tragic than anything the author could have penned.

If you are looking for a classic start-to-finish novel, this is probably not going to be a satisfying read. If you are a WWII history buff, this story about the German conquest/occupation of France will not disappoint you. I personally loved it and finished it in only two days. I could not put it down.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 30 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I really wanted to like this book more then I did. I initially picked it up after learning of the adversity the author went through in real life and the discovery of her manuscript years later. The book, however, left me feeling flat. There was such much description of the characters and setting yet still I felt something was left out. I usually love books that do not just read straight through begin to end of a single main character, but the bouncing back and forth in the first half of the book was hard to follow when the characters did not leave a strong enough impression for me to remember them later on. The second half of the book almost completely ignores the previous people that I kept wondering when would we go back to them. Then the book just ends. I'm still glad I read it but I it left me unsettled, not deep in thought, but emptied.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 118 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I'd had this book on my WL for so long that I gave in an ordered it from I enjoyed it, it's a clear portrait of the beginning of the German occupation of Paris in 1940--and it's a real shame that the remainder of Nemirovsky's manuscripts for what was to have been a 4-part novel were lost. Worth reading for the snapshot into a unique time it offers.
reviewed Suite Francaise on
Helpful Score: 3
I'm baffled by the reviews that say this was dull and tedious. I found it to be a very fast read. The characters had great depth; some were very likeable, some were despicable, but all were interesting. I wish the author had had the opportunity to complete her vision for the book; I could have happily read another three segments.

Highly recommended!
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Excellent way to learn more about the German invasion of France told from the ones being invaded. Lots of food-for-thought in these pages.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A thought provoking book. One that will last in my thoughts for some time. The characters were very strong, the history assumed. Even writing in 1941 the author appeared to have a grasp on what history would be written and therefore not have to be spelled out in her story leaving plenty of space for character building. So to speak.

How ironic her own life and the life of her children were caught up in the very history she wrote about. "Write about what you know," my English teachers always said....

The interesting point of this book is that, although born to Jewish parents, this woman and her family were practicing Catholics in France at the time of Hitler's German occupation. It made no difference. (Not a spoiler alert, you should know that.)
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
These stories describe the various reactions of people exposed to tremendous stress during the German invasion of France. From the brutal scenes of people fighting for survival; to choosing to believe that the war is not their problem, nor will it change their lifestyle. The authors notes at the end of the book, give insight into the development of these stories, written during this same period while the author was in a concentration camp. An excellent read.
reviewed Suite Francaise on
Helpful Score: 2
I found this book an amazing portrait of people,anywhere,anytime of war.The human emotions or lack of them portrayed by the characters make them all the more human in a time of great fear and suspicion. I enjoy history even if it is fiction. The author captured the characters very well.I was amazed at the later notes on her behalf and the events that happened after the book ended.A real page turner for me.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
On the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940 in Paris, a remarkable story of men and women trying to assimilate the meaning of how their lives will change. I found the story engaging, but disjointed. If Nemirovsky would have been able to finish the story, I am certain it would have been fuller and richer. I still enjoyed the different points of view that I had never thought of before - like still living a "normal" life with an occupying army in the middle of chaos.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 368 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This book is an in-depth look at so many facets of humanity. I am stunned at the depth of this work and the fascinating details of life within an occupied country during the war. There is such poignancy in the strengths and weaknesses of all the characters. If you read no other book this year, read this one. It will leave you with much to ponder, and perhaps an insight into your own life. If you read no other book, read this one. It is an absorbing depiction of war-occupied France during WWII and will leave you wondering what you would have done under similar circumstances. It shows humanity at its best and worst. Best of all, it will leave you with a great deal to ponder.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 20 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
"I must create something great and stop wondering if there's any point."
-Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky, a famous writer living in Paris, intended to write a novel containing five distinct sections about World War II. The first two novellas were written as the war evolved in the early 1940s. But, the rest she never finished.

Storms in June tells the amazing journey of men and women as they fled from Paris the night before the Germans occupied the city. The frenzied perspective of this historic event flutters from one character to another the way a leaf is carried by the wind. The panic and fragmented stories of a vast number of characters reflects the shattered disconnection the people felt as they fled in fear. While many of these characters are selfish and unlikeable, Nemirovsky writes their stories with intense humanity.

The second quieter novella, Dolce, tells about the German occupation of a small French village. Many of the soldiers lived in the homes of the villagers, where their meals were shared and their lives became intertwined. Lucile, one of the villagers, is living in her mother-in-law's home while her husband is a prisoner of the war. A German soldier comes to live with them and, despite the tense wariness the presence of the enemy derives, Lucile finds herself inappropriately drawn to him. Amazingly, Nemirovsky wrote these stories with contemplative reflection while they were occurring around her.

While Suite Francaise is intense and beautifully written, Storms in June is a bit disjointed and Dolce moves rather slowly. It is a rough draft. In fact, the story behind the book may be slightly more interesting than the book itself. Irene Nemirovsky was writing this book when she was sent to Auschwitz. The book includes two appendices that are quite fascinating. The first includes her plans for the remaining three parts of the book. This appendix shows the inner workings of her writing process and gives the reader an idea of the direction she was taking the book and it's apparent in her notes that revisions would have been made to the Storms in June and Dolce as well. The second appendix includes correspondence between Nemirovsky's husband and friends after she was taken to Auschwitz. They clearly illustrate the panicked anguish her husband felt before he, too, was taken to concentration camp. Both Irene and her husband were killed. If you pick this book up, do not skip the appendices. They are quite compelling.

Irene Nemirovsky's daughters didn't read the unfinished manuscript of Suite Francaise, believing it to be a journal and thus too painful to read. When it was discovered to be a manuscript, some 60 years later, it was subsequently published and has been a national bestseller. It's worth reading.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 50 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Wow, what can I say about this book. It was a journey. In school we were taught about the Holocaust but we were never taught about the effects it had on the families, the culture and the nations involved. Irene Nemirovsky touches on those aspects of a terrible time in the world. Some of the characters were thoughtful and kind and some were despicable but each one had a depth to their soul and an impact on the story. The very sad part of the story is that the author was never allowed the time to finish the book. She was sent to the death camps and died there. I think that is what makes this a beautiful story. The fact that she was never allowed to finish but to spite the hardships she endured and the terrible tragedies she found beauty in writing and she found an escape. I just wish she would have lived longer to have been able to complete the story.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 216 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Excellent (it seems semi-autobiographical) book about the German invasion of France in 1940 and various members of French society reaction to said events. The author never began the planned third of five books as she was a Ukranian Jew (living in France) and was deported to Aushtwitz.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Suite Française is an unfinished marvel from Russian-French author Irène Némirovsky, who ultimately perished in Auschwitz because she was a Jew. Originally intended to be five parts modeled on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, it only contains two "movements." The 'Storm in June' follows the mass exodus from Paris on the eve of Nazi occupation from the perspective of several families; 'Dolce' covers three months a German regiment spent in a rural village along the escape route, a little further along in the war. The characters are loosely connected by circumstances. Némirovsky manages to hold a mirror up to one of France's darkest hours. Instead of becoming a monolithic class of conquerors or victims, she shows that people, whether French or German, still concern ourselves with all too familiar things during wartime, whether they include familial or romantic love, class-based status, or prized material possessions. The story of how this manuscript remained hidden for sixty-plus years before its discovery is amazing in its own right; interested readers can learn about it and the author's writing process in the Appendices.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
How sad! This was to have been the first two parts of a five part series, but the author died during the holocaust. This is NOT a typical holocaust story as it takes place in France. She weaves stories about so many townspeople and their reactions to the coming war (and she does it so effortlessly)that you just want to read on and on. This is a truly compelling book.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was such a beautifully written book and compelling story. The historical significance of when and by whom it was written makes the plot seem even more powerful. I recommend this book to anyone who not only enjoys historical fiction, but to those who appretiate the human face of significant moments of history.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
One of my all-time favorite books- A must have for your library.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 1299 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this story. There was multiply stories in this one book and they were all related to each other somehow. The fact that she wrote this book before the end of the war and speculated on the outcome is awe inspiring. A must read book about the lives of those who lived and stayed in France during the occupation by Germany. A must read book.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 921 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Sometimes it's difficult to write about a book just after you finish it. For me, this was one. I still can't understand why more people haven't read it. Why isn't it popular and hard to find? Perhaps because it is the only book written by this gifted writer.

I'm not certain whether this novel should be classified as historical or historical fiction. Actually composed of two stories, she meant to write four, maybe five, when she was arrested by the German SS and sent to a concentration camp where she was executed. Her husband was executed later. Friends hid their two children who carried their mother's writing with them. It survived to be published first as this novel in France and later in English. Although she was Catholic, her parents were Jewish. It was a matter of survival when she fled Paris with other Jewish people and Frenchmen. While it was obvious that the Germans would occupy France, the author planned to document the French experience during the war.

The first part of the book, 'Storm in June', is obviously quite different from the latter part. Mass exit from Paris at the last minute describes people who were used to a life of luxury and others who lived an ordinary working life. How does one discern genuine friends from the those who strive only for themselves? How does one cope in chaos?

The second half, 'Dolce', depicts life in a small village under occupation.' How do the fleeing French live under occupation by the Germans? Some accept it and work with the Germans, others never accept the situation and still others resist until they die or are freed at the end of the war.

The stories are realistic. Some are heartbreaking while others are heart rending and downright scary. Yes, I found this book an intriguing read for one who has never lived under siege.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Slightly heavy book about various and interesting French characters during WWII, showing the mentality of a Nazi occupied population. There are some light points and funny turns for some characters. Heavy on the details and found that I needed to review chracater traits once we returned to the person/group.

Interesting, but don't need to read again!
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I did not know a grandmother in this world could refuse food ,shelter and love to two orphaned grandaughters. This is truly a cautionary tale of a world going mad before our eyes only we cannot believe what we are seeing. I am so glad this work of literature was found after so many years. This joins "The Diary of Anne Frank" as an unforgetable story of the very good and the very bad to be found in the human race.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book is often called a timeless masterpiece, and while I'm not sure I would put it quite on that level, it is definitely a captivating and emotional story.

I'd recommend reading the actual book first (actually 2 novellas), before the introduction and appendixes. This way you can really appreciate the story for what it is, a well-written, often heart-wrenching, story of Paris and it's inhabitants during the Nazi invasion and subsequent occupation. Aside from the backdrop, Irene Nemirovsky's characters are amazingly written. She brings across the emotions, strengths and shortcomings of her characters to make them real, both the likable and the detestable. It is my personal opinion that the story itself isn't very good, but her writing makes it so.

The book also has an introduction and excerpts from Nemirovsky's notes and correspondence, reading these are an added bonus. Her unfinished notes and plans for the rest of the novellas in the series, and the tragic story of her own life, make the book an even more poignant story of one of our world's most horrific times.
reviewed Suite Francaise on
Helpful Score: 1
I also had a hard time getting into this book and actually never finished it. I don't feel I missed out on anything.
reviewed Suite Francaise on
Helpful Score: 1
I am putting this book up after 143 pages. I need Cliff Notes - I am beyond lost!!! I bought it in the bookstore after reading so many reviews in the NY Times - I hope the next reader understands it better or can make out what is going on. Best of Luck & Happy Reading!!
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 232 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Brand new book about the culture of France in 1941. The effects of the German invasion.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 80 more book reviews
I had a really hard time sticking with this book. It did not keep my attention very well, and I had a hard time getting into it. I made myself finish it, but am not sure it was really worth it. There were parts that were interesting or thought-provoking, it was just hard for me to get through the other stuff to those parts.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 75 more book reviews
A tragic yet beautifully written story.
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A view of the French from Paris to countryside during the German invasion of France. Many interactions between the natives and the German soldiers who basically took over their town. Many consorted with the invaders and others did their best to avoid the invaders as much as possible. Very interesting read.
reviewed Suite Francaise on
I enjoyed this book about life in France during the early years of WWII.
reviewed Suite Francaise on
Amazing book!!!
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 4 more book reviews
Very poignant.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 12 more book reviews
Insights into the lives of regular people, some of whom are privileged, during the occupation of France by the German army.
reviewed Suite Francaise on + 138 more book reviews
In 1940 the Germans invaded and occupied France during WWII. During 1941 and the first half of 1942, Irene Nemirovsky, a French novelist of Russian Jewish descent, started writing Suite Francaise. Suite Francaise was to be a series of novels about the German occupation and French resistance. By the summer of 1942, she had finished the first two novels in the series, started outlining the third novel and had notes about the fourth and fifth. Tragically, in July of 1942, Irene was taken and imprisoned by the Germans. and was killed in a concentration camp in August of that year. Many years later, Irene's daughter transcribed the novels from Irene's handwritten notes. And finally in 2006 those first two novels were published - along with the notes and outlines for the remaining novels that were never written.

The first novel, Storm in June, follows several families and individuals as they flee from Paris during the 1940 invasion. The second novel, Dolce, is set in 1942 in a small country town in the French provinces which is occupied by the Germans. This novel is much more personal, and focuses on a smaller group of characters - some of whom were minor characters in the first novel. The interaction between the French characters and the German characters, enemies who were forced to live in very close proximity to each other, made for a great story.

The book concludes with the author's notes for the rest of the Suite Francaise series of novels. The notes are thorough enough that you are able to get a sense of what becomes of some of main characters from the previous books, which I appreciated. The final pages of the book are filled with letters written by Irene, her husband, and others from 1939-1945 - a finally a few-page summary of the life of Irene, and her family.

Obviously, if you know the author's own history, it lends a sense of pathos to the novels as you read them and might make a reader more inclined to be sympathic to the author and less of a harsh critic. But I had no idea of the author's history when I read the first two novels in Suite Francaise, and I still thought they were brilliant. When I finished the novels and read the pages covering Irene's own life, I became even more emotional.

Highly Recommended!
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interesting, sad. read notes at back!
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I can't review this story because I haven't listened to it. I no longer have a CD player. It is still wrapped in the original wrapper, unopened and the reviews sound great.
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I enjoyed this, interesting perspective on WWII.
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A breathtakingly beautiful book.