Thursday, June 21, 2007

Everything I Consume: Suite Française

"What separates or unites people is not their language, their laws, their customs, but the way they hold their knife and fork."
This book was fascinating and highly enjoyable. The author, Irène Némirovsky wrote the book, which is incomplete, during World War II. She was later arrested and died at Auschwitz.

The book follows several people and families following the invasion of France in 1940. The first half follows them as they flee the invasion and the second half examines the life in a Nazi-occupied provincial village where some of them have fled. It's very ahead of it's time with many interlocking plotlines and often continuing a scene with the point-of-view of a different character. At times it seemed a bit overwritten or confusing but bear in mind this is just the first draft and Némirovsky didn't live to revise her work. She wrote the entire manuscript in pencil in very small type in order to conserve paper.

It is also interesting to read history of World War II as it is written with the future unresolved. Even the American films made during the war regard victory as a foregone conclusion. The Germans are surprisingly sympathetic with most of the author's scorn devoted to the French who are all seen as weak and oblivious.

I can see how this book is touching a nerve. The families fleeing Paris towards an uncertain future could be ourselves fleeing a terrorist attack or a hurricane abandoned by an incompetent government.

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