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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Suite Française

Suite Francaise - Irène Némirovsky, Sandra Smith

Assigning a rating and reviewing any book can be a difficult task. There's the subjectivity of it: a bad meal or the rebound from a really good read can harm any decent book. There's the pressure of knowing that while my opinion probably won't sink any author, it may be one of the many stones that eventually capsizes someone's career. Add to that my own fears of rocking the boat in an industry I hope to someday be a part of. Ratings are difficult. It certainly doesn't help when the author's work was published posthumously, far from finished, and the author herself died in the Holocaust. Yeah, that fact alone probably boosts the average rating of this novel by one, I figure.


This is my second Irène Némirovsky book. I'm glad it wasn't my first. This was meant to be Némirovsky's War and Peace, and I can totally see it taking shape: an epic of more than a thousand pages in five complete and wonderful segments. Némirovsky never had the chance to finish Suite Française. Not surprisingly, none of it really comes together. Had she had the time, I have no doubts this would've been a fabulous book. As it is, it's really just an unfinished outline told in beautiful sentences.


Némirovsky was a very talented writer. I would've loved to have been able to read the completed novel; alas, that is an obvious impossibility. This is the closest thing we have, and I appreciate the notes that were included in the appendices. Though the author's notes do not go into details for what would've occurred in the following sequences, they give ideas of not only the overall direction the novel would go, but of Némirovsky's brilliant mind.


So no, Suite Française isn't really a four-star book. It's jumbled and confusing, it lacks any resolution. But that doesn't make it any less meaningful or majestic. Personally, I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction to the work of Némirovsky; Suite Française is for those who already know her work, or are merely curious about first-hand accounts of World War II. And if you do decide to pick it up, don't skip the appendices; this is where you'll find the more interesting of the two stories, though sadly, it does have an end.