Friday, May 18, 2007

And speaking of summer reading . . .

Thanks to Meggan's previous post, you all know that Musselman Library has once again published its annual Summer Reading booklet.

But rather than just leaving it at that, a few of us thought we might share our reviews from the booklet with you. So to get the ball rolling, here's my entry from the booklet on Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky. You can find this title in the library's book collection at PQ2627.E4 S8513 2006--in case you want to, ahem, check it out. (A little library humor for you . . . very little.)

Suite Française is definitely not your usual summer "beach trash," but instead is an altogether enjoyable read. It's a beautiful, unfinished novel that Némirovsky wrote while living through the invastion and occupation of France during the early years of World War II.

The story follows several characters in both urban and rural areas as they try to deal with rapidly changing events and alliances while living alongside of and under German military forces. Némirovsky, who died at Auschwitz in 1942, never finished the novel; the story goes that her daughters kept the manuscript for years without reading it, assuming it was a journal of the events that would be too painful to explore. The novel was only published in the original French in 2004, and then released in the U.S. in English in 2006.

Despite the grim backstory, Suite Française is a lovely, poetic work, chronicling the events of the time with humor, pathos, and generosity. Némirovsky humanizes all sides of the struggle, offering a nuanced portrait of citizens, soldiers, survivors, and collaborators of all classes and calibers.

It's such a pity that the author did not live to finish her work. It's such a joy, though, that what she did finish survives to this day.

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