Reason for reading: I had read great things about this book, it seemed to be universally adored. Also, my wife and I read this for our book club.
Quote: “The glass roof shattered and exploded outwards, wounding and killing the people in the square. Panic-stricken, some of the women threw down their babies as if they were cumbersome packages and ran. Others grabbed their children and held them so tightly they seemed to want to force them back into the womb, as if that were the only truly safe place.”
Suite Francaise is the first two parts of what was to be a longer novel about the people of France during World War II. The author, Irene Nemirovsky, was arrested for being of Jewish decent before she could finish the book. She died a month later in Auschwitz.
This is a strange novel. The tone the author took seemed at times almost light-hearted. That’s a strange way to approach a book about war. I never really felt a sense of danger or heartache in the book. Even at the death of a particular character it was almost comical. The tone was not what I expected at all.
It was even more interesting to note this knowing Nemirovsky’s fate. She surely must have known the German’s way of dealing with Jews, yet she never sounded bitter in the book, even as she discussed their occupation of her adopted country.
One of the things that did strike me throughout the book was the tension between classes. Everyone seemed to look down upon others according to their situation in life. I was surprised by how much class affected peoples opinions of others. I’m not sure if it was because of the time period in which the novel took place or the country in which it occurred or if it was because I am mostly blind to what goes on around me in the U.S. I don’t see this kind of class struggle where I live, maybe I’m oblivious or maybe I’m surrounded by people in a similar class as me.
This book was a surprise to me, I did not expect to find the things I have discussed above. It was a bit of a disappointment for me as well after reading so many good things. It was a struggle for me to get into the book and I had to force myself to pick it up in the beginning. It did get better and proved to be an involving read, but never reached my expectations.