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Review: “Suite Francaise” by Irene Nemirovsky (audio)

October 14, 2009

Well, I bit the bullet and finished Suite Francaise on audio today.  When I’d stopped the day before, I had a feeling that something terrible was about to happen, and I just couldn’t bear more suffering to be inflicted on the poor characters.  It did not go the way I feared.  On the contrary, I felt Nemirovsky wrapped the story up well.

Suite FrancaiseDivided into two parts, Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky tells the story of French citizens during the German invasion and the subsequent occupation.  The first half, “Storm in June,” roams around France following several Parisians who must decide what to do faced with the threat of an imminent German invasion.  As a pair of bank employees, a wealthy family, an artist, a priest, and several others struggle to flee the city, their stories unfold and entwine just enough.

The second part, “Dolce,” remains settled in a remote French village, where the occupants have been forced to take in German soldiers.  Subtler yet equally affecting, this half of the story traces what happens when conqueror and conquered must figure out how to live side by side.  A few loose tendrils reach out from the latter half to the first to hold the book together as a whole.

The book was supposed to have five parts; however, she died in the Auschwitz infirmary before she could complete the final three.  I learned this backstory after I finished the book and had no idea there was meant to have been more; the novel stands alone as it is.

The audio version was well done; I definitely liked “Dolce” better, but I am partial to Barbara Rosenblat’s performances after having listened to The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Daniel Oreskes does a fine job reading “Storm in June,” but to me it’s rare to find a male reader who does female voices in a way that doesn’t make me want to giggle.  Maybe I’m immature.  Either way, listening to a book so steeped in a foreign language as opposed to reading it is a huge help for me, since it frustrates me to not know how words are properly pronounced.

Overall, a lovely audiobook!

Now I can focus my attention solely on Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which I started yesterday at the gym and continued today on my drive to work.  There is no way I’ll be able to keep it just for gym time — it’s far too good!

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