Jul 18th, 2012 by Annie
Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky is set during World War II in German occupied France It is about the people of France as they fight to live, and struggle to survive under Nazi rule, at times honorable, at other times, not.
Extraordinarily, Suite Française was written as Némirovsky, a French writer of Russian-Jewish origin, was actually experiencing the German occupation of France. Némirovsky died in Auschwitz and the notebook containing her manuscript was not examined until 1998 by her daughter.
Suite Française was published in 2004.
Book Club Ideas
In Dolce the German soldiers organized a celebration to commemorate the shortest night of the year. Linens and fine china were collected from the villagers, flagpoles were decorated with fresh flowers and leaves and a cartful of roses gathered.
I opted for fresh flowers, including roses, in rustic vases and my very special painted French linen tablecloth given to me by a dear friend who spent a summer in France visiting relatives.
My music selection comes from an excerpt from the scene in which Bruno plays Mozart and Bach and some of his own compositions on the piano for Lucille for the first time.
“I do love music. You’re very talented, Monsieur.” He looked at her and said seriously, “Yes, I think I am talented,” with a sadness that surprised her…
He suddenly stopped playing and looked at her. “Are you crying? … Please forgive me,” he said. “Music brings out the emotions. Perhaps my music reminded you of someone … someone you miss?” …
In spite of herself she murmured, “No. No one…That’s just it…no one…”
They fell silent. He closed the piano.
Book Club Menu
In Storm in June many are fleeing Paris to the countryside before it falls to the Germans and in Dolce the setting is a small provincial village under German occupation. So I included rustic, country-style dishes on my party menu.
I couldn’t decide on just one French dessert, so I prepared two.
Clafoutis Limousin (Cherry Batter Pudding)
Gateau de Savoie (French Sponge Cake)
Have several bottle of French wines on hand to complete the menu.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.78 stars (23963 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4.3 stars (422 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 3.98 stars (1560 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4.75 stars Suite Française is an amazing, evocative work, even though it was never finished. I was especially moved by Lucille’s plight.|
Discussion questions are adapted from LitLovers.com
- Irène Némirovsky outlined her plans (included in the appendix of the novel) for Suite Française. What did you think of those plans? What did you think about what she planned for some of your favorite characters?
- Suite Française was literally written as the action was occurring making it one of the first, if not the first, novels about World War II. How does Némirovsky’s perspective differ from that of other World War II novels you might have read written many years following WWII?
- In Dolce were the Germans soldiers living amongst the villagers portrayed in a different light than how they are typically depicted in World War II novels? If so, in what ways? Discuss the conflicted and complex emotions experienced by the villagers in regard to the Germans.
- Discuss the different ways in which the French people of different social classes were able to manage under Nazi rule.
- Suite Française consists of two unique books with some intersecting characters. Which book, Storm in June or Dolce, did you prefer and why? Discuss the different structure of each book, as well.
More discussion questions from the publisher, Random House, can be found here.
Purchase Suite Française at your favorite bookseller
|Irène Némirovsky was born in the Ukraine in 1903. Her family fled the Russian Revolution in 1917 eventually setting in France. In 1919, Némirovsky became a writer of some renown, having published 9 novels and a biography of Chekov. However, she was denied French citizenship in 1938. Némirovsky was married with two daughters. In 1940, the family fled Paris to escape the impending Nazi occupation. The family settled in the village of Issy-l’Évêque. Although, a Roman Catholic convert, Némirovsky was classified as a Jew and subsequently arrested in July 1942. She was sent to Auschwitz where she died of typhus the following month at age 39. Her husband was sent to Auschwitz in November 1942 and was gassed upon arrival. Her two daughters, Denise and Élisabeth were hidden by their French governess, Julie Dumot, and others during the German occupation. The girls carried their mother’s papers with them.|
Other Works by Author and Recommended Reading
Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…
“Important events – whether serious, happy or unfortunate – do not change a man’s soul, they merely bring it into relief, just as a strong gust of wind reveals the true shape of a tree when it blows off all its leaves. Such events highlight what is hidden in the shadows, they nudge the spirit towards a place where it can flourish.” — Irène Némirovsky, Suite Française
“Think of me sometimes….I have done a lot of writing….I suppose they will be posthumous works, but it helps pass the time.” — Irène Némirovskye
Visit Women of Letters at the museum of Jewish Heritage for more on Irène Némirovsky
Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for Suite Française? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.
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