Monday, July 21, 2008

Suite Française ~ by Irène Némirovsky, 2006

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940, Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy — in their town, in their homes, even in their hearts.

When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, 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, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown. When Suite Française appeared in France in 2004, it became a best seller. The novel is in two parts, which could be called novellas: "Storm in June" and "Dolce." The New York Times published a review of the book when it was published in 2006, giving us some background information:
Némirovsky had more plans for Suite Française, as an appendix to this volume makes clear. In her notebook, she sketched the possibility of a work in five parts. "Storm in June" and "Dolce" were to be followed by: "3. Captivity; 4. Battles?; 5. Peace?" The question marks punctuate Némirovsky's peculiar problem; she was trying to write a historical novel while the outcome of that history remained unknown. The fourth and fifth parts of the book "are in limbo," she observed, "and what limbo! It's really in the lap of the gods since it depends on what happens."
Irène Némirovsky died without every knowing the outcome of World War Two, and we, unfortunately, will never know how she might have written other parts of the book. Here's the first chapter, if you want to get started right away.

Getting started
Chapter 1 ~ can be read online
What we said about the book
Storm in June (War), Ch 1-20
Storm in June (War), Ch 21-31
Dolce (Occupation), Ch 1-22
Appendix (1 = author's notes, 2 = correspondence)
Preface to the French Edition


Anonymous said...

I recently read your post about Irène Némirovsky and wanted to let you know about an exciting new exhibition about her life, work, and legacy that will open on September 24, 2008 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through the middle of March, will include powerful rare artifacts — the actual handwritten manuscript for Suite Française, the valise in which it was found, and many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there will be a special website that will live on the Museum’s site
The Museum will host several public programs over the course of the exhibition’s run that will put Némirovsky’s work and life into historical and literary context. Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Tracy Bradshaw at 646.437.4304 or Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.
Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. Let me know if you need any more.

-Elizabeth Sinnreich (

Shirley said...

Thanks for the background info on the book, Bonnie. I appreciate that you do this for each of our reads.

The New York exhibit sounds excellent. Does anyone think they will make it to the exhibit? I hope one of us will remember to repint the special website address when the exhibit opens.

Although it was a horrible time in world history, I have been intrigued by the World War II era for most of my life probably triggered by reading The Diary of Anne Frank as a teen and that my Dad served in WWII (but never talked about it) in England. As my sons reached adulthood, I realized just how young my Dad (and most of the other soldiers were) when they were sent overseas. It is still sad today when soldiers are sent overseas, but then it was even worse as there was not the ease of communication that now allows soldiers to keep in touch on a daily basis with their families.

In the review of Suite Francaise, it was interesting to note that the occupying forces are described as not the horrible creatures that had been expected, but as young men with human emotions.

It sounds like a very good read. I am looking forward to receiving my copy from the library. I hope that this book generates lots of discussion.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Last night I attended "open mic" with the Chattanooga Writers Guild, held in the auditorium of our large downtown library. I was able to pick up a copy of Suite Francaise, too, so I'm ready to go.

Shirley asked, "Does anyone think they will make it to the exhibit?" (BTW, Elizabeth Sinnreich left the same announcement on Marylyn's post suggesting our Next book.)

No, I can't make it to the exhibit, but wouldn't it be fun if some of us could? Does anybuddy live in or near New York City?

A few years ago a friend and I read and discussed Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, about the painter Vermeer. My friend, who lives in Connecticut, invited me to visit her so we could attend a Vermeer exhibit in NYC. What fun! She and I added to our reading: Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland and everything we could get our hands on about Johannes Vermeer, including online sources about his 35 paintings. I felt like I had taken a crash course in Vermeer by the time we took the train from Connecticut to NYC to see his paintings gathered from all over the world!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

After I posted the comment about New York City an hour ago, I started trying to remember exactly when I was there. It took a Google search to confirm it was in the spring of 2001:

"Vermeer and the Delft School"
2001-03-08 until 2001-05-27
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY, USA

I'd forgotten it was mere weeks before 9/11. The twin towers were still standing when I last visited NYC.

Zorro said...

Bonnie, may I invite friends to join us in our discussion of Suite Francaise?

Jennifer said...

The library has three copies available at my branch and I'll be picking up one when I go later this week to return some books. And I'm opening the book review to read right now.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Sure, Mary. This blog is open to anyone in the world, and anyone can also comment (like we are doing here). If your friends want to actually post at Book Buddies, they would have to request an invitation from me ... so that I could add them as "authors" of the blog. As you know, that takes a bit more effort and knowledge, but they are welcome. I cannot add any more people to receive email notification when there's a comment, but since I've added the subscription feature to the sidebar, that's another thing anybody in the world can do.

m said...


Hello ladies,

Hope this note finds everyone well, comfortable, and happy.
Some of you might remember me, as "m" well I am now using createjoy, but it is still me..

I have decided I'd like to read Suite Farancaise with your group. I am looking forward to sharing with past friends and new friends in this Book Buddies site.

I will be getting my copy today. Is there a reading and discussion schedule?


m said...


oh well, the site is not taking createjoy... so I'll just leave it like it is..

It is still me,

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Welcome, Margie. I kind of like that you are still "m" to us. We've missed having you in our conversations, so I'm glad you are joining us now.

The reading schedule is in the sidebar (on the right of the main page of Book Buddies). Discussion questions will be posted as I read sections of the book. I can't do more than that before I actually look at a book. (In other words, this is not an Oprah site, so everything is a work in progress.)

Start reading the book, and a schedule will magically appear. (Whether helped along by Marylyn and friends, or not. Thanks, Marylyn.)

Zorro said...

m, We don't have a reading schedule yet and until Bonnie gets the book we won't have a schedule.
Jime the Boy is still the discussion book for July. The schedule will be posted later in the side bar.

Bonnie said:

"Bonnie Jacobs said...
Welcome, Margie. I kind of like that you are still "m" to us. We've missed having you in our conversations, so I'm glad you are joining us now.

The reading schedule is in the sidebar (on the right of the main page of Book Buddies). Discussion questions will be posted as I read sections of the book. I can't do more than that before I actually look at a book. (In other words, this is not an Oprah site, so everything is a work in progress.)

Start reading the book, and a schedule will magically appear. (Whether helped along by Marylyn and friends, or not. Thanks, Marylyn.)"

m said...

Well thank you Zorro and Bonnie.

Bonnie I did not realize you didn't have the book.

After I read your below post, I took it to literally mean "the reading schedule is in the sidebar,(on the right of the main page of Book Buddies)". Therefore when I could not access it I was asking for help.

Bonnie I understood clearly about the discussion questions, nor did I ever ask for them.

Of course discussion questions will be posted as we read sections of the book, I wouldn't want it any other way. Heck there could be spoilers, in questions that don't pertain to our scheduled readings.

Yes you did write you can't do more than that before you actually look at a book, but I hope you and Zorro now realize why the confusion for me. I never realized the book was not in your possession Bonnie, I just thought you had not look at it yet.

Bonnie, we read books together for years, so I hope you recall me to be a non judgmental, or non demanding participant in your group, and most of all you remember me not be caustic.

Very sorry Bonnie, that you felt the need to express this below statement to me:
"(In other words, this is not an Oprah site, so everything is a work in progress.)".

Oh well, maybe you don't remember me as I would like to be remembered...:-)

Again, sorry... if I did not understand your post as you intended.

Zorro, Bonnie ... I am not needing any reply to this post, but that of course is your choice.

I felt I needed to help both of you understand how my confusion began.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Margie, dear Margie,
I'm not trying to frustrate you, but it seemed to me that I was not getting through to you that I can't make a schedule (or discussion questions) before I read at least part of the book. You used the word "caustic," so I believe you think that's what I've been. I was only trying to be perfectly clear that I'll DO more when I know WHAT to do.

Mary/Zorro was trying to help me because of the BB conversation we were having just before you asked to join. It can be found in the post just BEFORE the one by Marylyn that you seem to have read, the one entitled Next Book, when Marylyn said, "I am going to pretend that we are not discussing the end of BB's and put out my suggestion of a book we can vote on for next month Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. Waiting anxiously for all the others so we can vote."

In other words you were almost too late to ever join this Book Buddies blog. In the post entitled August book, just before Marylyn's post, you can read a whole exchange about what to do with Book Buddies because it is so much work for me. Zorro was trying to explain the situation to you, apparently having no more success than I had. I believe Mary was trying to help me not get discouraged, again, after she and a few others had rescued Book Buddies from the scrap heap of history.

Here's part of what I had said in one of the comments on that earlier post (all of which you can read by clicking here):

Most of you are probably not aware that I am basically doing what Oprah's staff does for her world-wide book club. And I'm not having fun any more. We have been following Oprah's ORIGINAL idea of reading a book a month, discussing it during that month, and wrapping it up at the end of the month. Oprah abandoned that format years ago, and I'm ready to do the same. But I haven't figured out what to do instead of this.

The biggest work for me is reading and making up questions for books every month, whether I want to read the book or not. Somebuddy may say, "But there are discussion questions already worked up, out there somewhere." Yes, but nearly always the questions are planned for book clubs that discuss the book only AFTER everyone has read it. Therefore, I've been thinking about what to do with Book Buddies:

(1) Once a month discussions
This would mean Book Buddies would be deserted and desolate for three weeks out of every month, a dead zone which would soon be forgotten.

(2) Other discussion leaders
Maybe one or two of you would be willing to take on a leadership role.

(3) Change the frequency
Maybe we should discuss books only a few times a year: January-April-July-October? Maybe every other month?

(4) RIP Book Buddies
Close up shop and say goodbye to Book Buddies.

If anybuddy else has suggestions for resuscitating (doing CPR on) Book Buddies, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Marylyn suggested she and other BBs might let me take a break during August, so I'm sure Zorro was trying to explain how we do things so I wouldn't have to keep explaining.

I did understand your confusion, but I hadn't managed to lessen it with my first explanations. So I was trying to be more direct with my latest attempt ... that may have seemed caustic to you.

When I said, "In other words, this is not an Oprah site, so everything is a work in progress," it was addressed to EVERYBUDDY, not just you. They recognized the reference to Oprah from the earlier conversation. In no way was it intended as a slam to you. It was my "I'm-feeling-overwhelmed" plea to the whole BB community ... because I'm doing all the work. For me, "work in progress" means I'm winging it with every single book, trying to hold this book club together single-handedly (with the help of a few friends like Zorro and Marylyn, who both jumped in there to help). And it takes ... so ... much ... time.

I apologize that you are feeling miffed. I apologize that I was not clear enough. I apologize that it sounded caustic. We do want you to be at home here with the Book Buddies, so don't take anything I say as somehow putting you down. I'm simply trying to explain. I KNOW you are not judgmental or demanding or caustic; I wish you could see that I'm not either ... and didn't mean to come across that way.

By the way, I did (and do) have the book, but I still have to write up discussion questions for one last section of Jim the Boy before I start reading the August selection. Hang around a little bit and you'll see that the questions DO appear at (approximately) the right time.

Marylyn S said...

It is really good to have you back reading with the Buddies. I am so glad you decided to read with us.

I have been out for a while, it is hard for me to get books here in a timely mannor so I spend a lot of time just lurking now...Lol

I am trying to come up with some questions I have read some of the book now and worked on a schedule let me know if this is OK. I know you are fustrated I counted all your blogs and Oh My I don’t know how you have keep up this long.

Well I am swamped at work with the end of FY08 so I will check in with you all this weekend.


m said...

Dear Bonnie,
Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into your response to me. I really appreciate it!

No Bonnie, I had not read any of the past posts so I was unaware of your frustrations and difficulties with the work of hosting a book club. I now understand better why you responded as you did.

I hope you too can see why I was confused, it was not until Zorro said; "until Bonnie gets the book we won't have a schedule" that I got it.

Bonnie, I'd be happy to host a discussion one month if that might help keep your group alive.

Love ya Bonnie, always have ... always will.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thanks, Margie. Before you can take on a leadership role, however, you first need to POST something and start learning how to blog. Here's how:

(1) On the Book Buddies page, click on "New Post" at the very top of the page. That opens up a window with a blank post in which to ...

(2) Start typing ... tell us about the book or, if you don't have anything to say yet, tell us you HAVE the book or have started READING it or LIKE it or HATE it (or whatever).

(3) Be sure to add a title to your post (it's that small line above what you've been typing.

(4) Label your post with your name (Margie) and SF (for Suite Francaise ... it changes with each book) ... or OT (for Off Topic).

(5) Click "Publish Post" when you are finished, and we'll all be able to read what you wrote.

Thanks, Margie. You have great potential.