Published more than fifty years after her death, Irene Némirovsky's Suite Francaise is a literary work of art.
She skillfully crafted a conglomerate of finely wrought characters, characters that become more deeply engraved on the reader's heart with each page turned. Suite Francaise is one of those stories whose ending leaves the reader bereft, missing each character like a lost friend. When I read the last page, I wished that Lucile could remain my neighbor. I wanted to sit by the fire and comfort Madeleine and to applaud the Michaud family's courage. And the loss of painfully naive Father Phillippe so filled me with horror that it shook my psyche like an earthquake. Throughout the book, Némirovsky's astute description of the German occupying forces, their clueless rigidity, their delusional assumption that the conquered French people's welcome was completely benign, never ceased to amaze me.
Némirovsky intended to continue her characters' stories through the anticipated end of World War II and beyond, but her death in 1942 while a prisoner at Auschwitz silenced her stories. Hers was a great literary talent, a voice pointlessly lost to the brutality and hatred of war.
The manuscript for Suite Francais was discovered in Némirovsky's personal papers early in the twenty first century. It was published in France in 2004, then translated into English and published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf in 2006.
This portrait of ordinary and extraordinary people, facing the loss and heartbreak of war, each in their own way, is a must read and a wonderful addition to my home library.