Red Wheelbarrow Book Reviews
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Suite Franšaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Chatto and Windus, UK, Large Paperback Edition Available at the RWB, Translated by Sandra Smith
I unabashedly loved this book written by a woman, originally from the Ukraine, born in 1903 in Kiev whose rich jewish family fled the Russian Revolution and settled in Paris to start a new life. She started to write when she was very young, wrote several highly acclaimed novels published by Bernard Grasset first in 1929, until the Germans occupied France when, once more, the family was on the road, looking for security.
This book describes the flight, the exodus, which took place in June, in France, in 1940 when thousands of people tried to get into unoccupied territory, terrified of the Germans.
The evocation of the disorder, the mix of peoples, the cowards, the rich, the destitute, the heroic and the fragile, the pregnant, the old and the young, all this mass of humanity in flight. The occasional bombings, the abandoned farms, the compromises necessitated for survival, all this she shows with precise detail, with enormous compassion, in beautifully rendered prose.
The fact that this manuscript was found, safely hidden in the suitcase of one of the author's daughters, more than fifty years after Madame Nemirovsky was deported on the 13th of July, 1942, sent to the camp in Pithiviers and the following day deported with convoy number six and then gassed in Birkenau on the 17th of August, makes this publication even more precious.