Friday, November 23, 2007

Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky

This audiobook was obtained as a free download from Overdrive Audio through the Alachua County Public Library. It was 13 hours and 13 minutes long, and came in two parts, the first read by Daniel Oreskes, and the other by Barbara Rosenblat.

This book is actually two novellas that were part of a planned set of five. They were written contemporaneously during and about the German occupation of France. The author, Irene Nemirovsky, died in Auschwitz after being deported as a stateless person of Jewish origin.

The first novella, "Storm in June", is about the fear and dread of the German invasion. The men of fighting age are all gone. Businesses are relocating on the fly. Carloads of possessions pass desperate refugees as they head for safer ground. Whole towns are stripped of their food as the hordes pass through. For these people, the war is a huge disappointment after defeating Germany in 1918. The veterans of that war feel as if their sacrifice was for nothing. The surrender of France is a relief, just to stop the bombs and the fear of death.

The second, "Dolce", deals with the effects on the citizens of the occupation. Wealthy families host German officers, some with more grace than others. Young women, coming of age when all the young men are Germans, weigh their natural feelings against the possibility that these young men may have killed or imprisoned their fathers and brothers.

As much as it's a tragedy that the rest of this work was never finished, it is also the height of irony that such a beautifully written account was halted by the author's date with the Holocaust. And it's also a revealing look at a part of history that does not get much coverage: the lives of invaders and collaborators, when all the French had was the Passive Resistance.

I wanted it to go on. It is sad that it could not. 4 stars.

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