Wednesday, January 03, 2007

WRITING AGAINST TIME: The Third Day Book Club Blogs Suite Francaise

Irene Nemirovsky

"All the time we were in that village, I just remember mother writing, writing, writing. It was as if she knew she was writing against time. Indeed, reading between the lines, her notes show she knew full well that if ever her final work was published, it would be posthumously."

Nemirovsky's daughter, Denise Epstein, describing how Suite Francaise was written

I'm not usually fond of novels with large casts of characters. Usually I prefer the intimate view of a clear and strong protagonist. But even though the first half of Nemirovsky's epic leaped from family to family and house to house much as sinuously as the sound of the siren that cuts through the night changing everything for the city of Paris and its occupants, the story itself never loses focus or cohesion.

In many ways, the central character of the novel is disruption. The particular disruption that war causes. The images of families and individuals, suddenly detached from security and safety, fleeing with their pets and possessions, not certain where they would sleep that night or what they would eat was, in many ways, chillingly familiar. It called up images as close as Hurricane Katrina, and as far away as Darfur or Iraq. Or maybe none of it feels too far away now--which may be why reading Suite Francaise was such a disquieting experience.

A brilliant observer of human nature, Nemirovsky captures the wide range of humanity in crisis. Her characters are foolish, noble, petty, selfish, brave and exceedingly real. The novel reads like the instant classic, which I believe it is destined to become. Don't miss it.

For further reflections on Suite Francaise:





Paris Parfait

Jordan Rosenfeld



Patry Francis said...

Devon: It truly is a marvelous novel. If you decide to read it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Unknown said...

I have posted my review at:
I found one review linked here--where are all the others? Am I posting in the wrong place?
Thanks for steering us to this wonderful book.

Anonymous said...

I read the first hundred pages, and lost interest. The writing is good, but the characters were too negative for me. since I don't have a blog, I can't participate anyway.

Mindy Tarquini said...

I really want to read this book, but it's too long for December. I started with it, liked it, but found I didn't want to read about Nazis or anything very important.

Soooo...maybe in a few months. I don't have it in me right now. Your review convinces me that I'll enjoy it when I have time to kick back with it.

Tinker said...

I'm sorry I didn't get to the novel this month (I did still point to the book club in my post, so hopefully others will find it). Based on your and AmishLaw's reviews, it sounds well worth reading and I hope to read this sometime in the near future.

Jean said...

I've just finished the first part, and will review the book when I've read it all. I think she was an astonishingly talented writer and it's one of the best-written, most vivid and provocative books I've ever read. Will have much to say when I've finished it.

Crockhead said...

Thanks for your review. I agree with everything you said, and you said it so much better than my attempt on my blog. I'm not sure what the criteria are for books to be read on Third Day Book Club, but "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Euginedes is a book with very fine writing, although the plot gets a little far-fetched at times.

Kay Cooke said...

I want to read it NOW! After that particularly lucid review. Thanks!

Shannon Hopkins said...

I reviewed what i've read so far at

I started again last night, after taking a two-week break from reading it. I will review the second half when I'm done.

Patry Francis said...

heather elise: Sorry you didn't enjoy it!

mindy: It definitely wasn't the best choice for the chaotic month of December since it demands and deserves to be savored. Hope you'll read with us next month!

tinker: Thanks for the link. I think you will definitely enjoy the novel.

jean: Looking forward to that review. Make sure you come back and let me know when you post it.

Amishlaw: My agent also recommended Middlesex a while back.hmmm...

chiefbiscuit: It really is a rare and wonderful novel. I hope you'll share your thoughts if you do read it. We're the Third Day book club, but we're can also post on the TWENTY-third or even the twenty-fourth.

tarakuanyin: Going to read your review right now...

Jean said...

Middlesex was just about my favourite book read in 2006. Don't usually blog about books, but I did:

Sustenance Scout said...

Patry, I'm a reader of reviews rather than a writer of one this month. The Third Day Book Club is such a terrific idea; even when only a few participants review a book, the rest of us are able to take revelations from each write-up. From yours, I'm taking the daughter's comments. I love that image of a woman so determined to get something down that her own children watch in awe. I wish with all my heart that Nemirovsky had survived and am grateful her daughters did. Fiction so entwined with history fascinates me. I look forward to reading it. K.

Anonymous said...

Am very sorry to be a day late:

Thank you!

Sustenance Scout said...

p.s. I vote for Middlesex, too. K.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I've read Middlesex, and while I loved it, I'm sort of hoping for something new. What about Orhan Paumuk's Snow, or something perhaps a little more lighthearted (not saying Snow is lighthearted).

Patry Francis said...

Jean: Thanks for the link. I'll be checking out your review tonight.

Jordan: I tried to leave a comment on your terrific review, but blogger wouldn't accept it. This is what I said: You describe the unflinching vision of this novel so well! The utterly unsentimental, but somehow merciful way that Nemirovsky observes her characters (much as a cat observes us!) was absolutely masterful. Great review.

K: You've really hit on what makes the book club so interesting--especially when we blog our responses before reading anyone else's. With every review I read, I feel like I'm taking on and understanding the novel in a different way. Thanks for participating even when you didn't have time to read.

Shannon Hopkins said...

I prefer novels with smaller casts of character too, usually, but this one is so beautifully described that somehow it continues to haunt me, despite the fact that I did feel the need to take a two-week break between the sections. I'm on Dolce now, and was delighted to encounter Madeleine and Cecile again. Reading your review, and also Amishlaw's and Sharala's, are giving me "new eyes," so to speak, as I read the second section. An interesting way to read a book!

Mindy Tarquini said...

Lighthearted sounds nice. I kind of crave something that easy going.

How about I Am the Messenger? by Martin Zusak?

I had another I wanted to recommend, but I feel silly doing so since I didn't blog this one. I have 3 weeks at the marsh come June and I was thinking I want to read Suite Francais then because the book opens in June. I dunno. I associate June with WWII. D-Day, I suppose.

Or even The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night? I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but my 10 year old son loved it, as did my 39 yea old friend, so...I'm intrigued.

Patry Francis said...

I'm for a less demanding read this month myself since my pub date is Feb 1st and I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed at this point. Maybe we could even read a suspense novel to get me in the mood to promote mine!

I'll post a few titles tomorrow, including your suggestions, and see what we come up with.

steve on the slow train said...

I'm afraid I wasn't even aware of the Book Club selection until the 3rd. I've been working too much A suggestion--not necessarily for next month--is Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. It's not the kind of book I'd normally read, but I heard Ms. Robinson on NPR and was taken with the story. An elderly Congregational minister from a small Iowa town fears he will die soon, and is writing a sort of diary in the form of a letter to his young son. And even though nothing very dramatic happens in the book, the ideas and the imagery held my attention.

Patry Francis said...

steve: I loved Gilead. It's a short novel, but it took me a couple months to finish it because I read it in short delicious sips. Definitely something to keep in mind.

Becca said...

I did post a review ~ hopefully better late than never!

Here it is:

I'm looking forward to next month's selection :)

Zhoen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jean said...

Patry, I've finally got around to posting my very belated review. It occurred to me that there would not be a more appropriate day, sadly, that today, Holocaust Day. I'm so glad that the bookclub encourage me to read this marvellous novel.

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