Suite Française Summary & Study Guide

Irène Némirovsky
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This section contains 682 words
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Suite Franaise Summary & Study Guide Description

Suite Franaise Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Suite Franaise by Irène Némirovsky.

An unfinished novel by a brilliant author, Suite Française is written by Irene Nemirovsky about a period of history of which she, herself, will become a victim. As the German occupation of France develops, so does Suite Francaise, a novel planned to be divided into five parts, three of which are never completed.

Irene Nemirovsky is born in the Ukraine, but lives and successfully writes in Paris as a young adult. Jewish by birth, she converts with her husband to Catholicism, and plans to raise their two small daughters as Catholics. Nemirovsky's description of Paris in June in the first part of the book, entitled "The Storm," is unforgettably poignant and rich. The irony of the Nazi invasion of France in a particularly fragrant and balmy springtime is stark and realistic. The simple lives of Parisians have already been transformed by the sounds of sirens and the awareness of a dreadful war moving ever closer to their homes.

In Part One, Storm in June, we meet the Pericand family, whose eldest son is a Catholic priest and whose paternal grandfather resides with the family. They have five children and live a structured life of philanthropic affluence, taking care to always appear helpful, if not humble, toward those less fortunate. Facing the fact that Paris will soon be occupied and perhaps destroyed, the family prepares to flee. Young Hubert Pericand, ashamed at his country's defeat, wants to fight in the war. Gabriel Corte, a wealthy, delicate writer, also lives a luxurious life in Paris, and is forced to flee for his life. The Michauds, whose only son is missing in the war, are salt of the earth characters who both are employed by Monsieur Corbin, a local banker. With the promise of continued employment, they are expected to meet Corbin in Tours later, but due to the horrible conditions as France becomes occupied, and Corbin's obligations to his mistress, Arlette Corail, they both lose their jobs. In the pressing rush to escape Paris, with a shortage of fuel and food, we sense the leveling of the playing field among the rich and poor, since all the money in the world cannot buy what is not available.

In the second section of the book called "Dolce," we are introduced to Madame Angellier, her daughter-in-law, Lucile, and a local man named Benoit, as the occupation settles in. In the Dolce section of the book, after much hardship and terror and several deaths among the characters' families, the focus turns to the relationship between Lucile Angellier, whose husband is missing in the war, and the German officer who has been "billetted" to their household, Bruno von Falk. The intricacies of that relationship and the many taboos that prevent it from blossoming, dominate much of this section. Nemirovsky explores the irony of enemies living together and how, as much concealed hatred and resentment is masked by manners and deference toward the dominating force, there is a softening that takes place among the German soldiers and the townspeople, who come to see them as human beings. When a farmer, Benoit Sabarie, kills a German officer, everything changes and the tensions, suspicions and anger that promised to erupt at the beginning of the occupation resurface. The relationship between Lucile and Bruno comes to a screeching halt, even though they have acknowledged their love for one another.

The Germans finally leave France to invade Russia, facing more battle and loss, and their departure leaves a feeling of softness and sadness. Nemirovsky, although she made notes about what directions the rest of the story might take, never finishes the novel, since she is arrested and taken to Auschwitz where she is killed by the Germans. Shortly thereafter, her husband is also arrested and killed in the concentration camps. Their two daughters are able to save her manuscripts and notes for many years. Sandra Smith does a masterful job of translating Nemirovsky's beautiful, descriptive writing into English. So many years later, Suite Française is a masterpiece, and its lack of an ending makes a poignant statement about the author and her own unfortunate fate.

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