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Sunday, July 28, 2013

A World War II Novel

I've been reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, who died in Auschwitz in 1942. A Russian, she emigrated to France with her family when she was about 14 years old. The edition I'm reading is a 5"x8" paperback published by Vintage International, a division of Random House, Inc., the 16th edition.

This fictional story tells about some families and single people living in Paris when the Germans invade and  they leave like many of the other Parisians and head to various towns and cities in the south thinking that the Germans would soon be bombing the Hell out of Paris.  They find themselves in various difficulties, some traveling by auto, some by train, and some on foot with all their belongings on their backs. Some families run out of petrol (gas) and none is available; they are forced to leave their vehicles and join the hordes of people walking along the roads, hungry, tired, and not really knowing where they are going. The German aircraft sweep through the skies over some of them and drop their bombs, injuring and killing some unfortunate souls, and the French Army appears not to be very effective at all in pushing back the invading troops. A yhoung teenager named Hubert takes off to join the Army and declare his patriotism and the family thinks he has been killed. They arrange a funeral service for him and his grandfather who passed away from natural causes, and Hubert shows up as the family is headed for the church. Another family member, a Priest was also included in the funeral, he was stoned to death by his young charges as they bread into an abandoned house and the Priest actually jumps into a lake to get away, but the rocks thrown at him does him in.

Some of the people return to Paris where they find their houses have not been damaged at all by the German bombs and are pleasantly surprised.

I'm about halfway through this book and find it very interesting even though it is fiction, because it portrays the actual happenings of the war with the Germans, where many innocent people are killed or injured and the futility of the French soldiers, many of whom had terrible memories of the First World War of 1914-18. Ms. Nemirovsky's writing style appears to me to be similar to the Russian writers, Tolstoy, etc., in that she follows a statement by one, two, or three descriptive phrases in the Russian or European style. It sort of drives me up the wall, but then again it makes it more poetical or rhythmical. The book opens with two pages of accolades from reviewers such as, "Stunning, remarkable, astonishing, extraordinary," and on and on. My French girlfriend told me that she and her parents lived in the countryside during the War and this is another reason why I wanted to read this book. I could see what the family went through with the lack of food and necessaries and it makes it more personal to me. You may want to pick up a copy and see for yourself what I'm talking about.   

    

6 comments:

  1. Thanks Oscar, I might do that as I like reading fiction and historical fiction set around the two World Wars and the Cold War.

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    1. You will enjoy it from a historical perspective, Prashant.

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  2. Haven't heard of this one. Doesn't quite sound like my cup of tea.

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  3. I may pass myself, Oscar. But I enjoyed your post, sir.

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    1. Thanks, David. Have a nice weekend!

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