Every now and then, an astonishing book of revelatory longing comes along – that simply communicates in such a way as to make you feel both humble and glad to be alive – and Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française is the most recent.
Set in France during the German occupation of World War II, the book is essentially split into two parts; the first (Storm In June), depicts a group of Parisians as they flee the inevitable - amid the ensuing chaos of France, whilst the second (Dolce) focuses on the inhabitants of a small rural community - under the severity of occupation.
‘’Life was like Shakespeare’’ writes Némirovsky, ‘’both noble and tragic,’’ which, when you think about it, it still is.
To say the novel promotes humanity beyond the parameters of expectation, is akin to saying Bob Dylan has a way with words. Like Arundhati Roy’s The God Of Small Things, Némirovsky has captured all the shimmering, and at times, violent, trajectory that misplaced love and loyalty will (not) allow: ‘’The outside world was incoherent and hideous, painted in the colours of hell, a hell Jesus could never enter…because they would tear him to
The authoress initially conceived Suite Française as a four or five part novel (‘twas to be her War and Peace), but, like Anne Frank – to whose diary, the intimacy of this book could quite easily be compared – Némirovsky too faced death as a result of the Final Solution. But unlike the ghastly ideology of the Third Reich (and all the hate and hypocrisy and death and defeat that was endemic during the occupation of France), Némirovsky’s observation and vision substantiates that hope was, and still is, contagious.
A beautiful, beautiful, book, that absolutely needs to be read.
By Irène Némirovsky - Chatto & Windus £16.99