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East Bay Book Club Message Board › Meeting Recap: March 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion (Suite Francaise by I

Meeting Recap: March 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion (Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky)

Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 15
The March 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion on Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky started with a quick overview of its unique publication history. Nemirovsky had lived as a bestselling author in the first half of the 20th century. Suite Francaise was written at that time, but the author had been taken to Auschitz where she later died. The unpublished novel was found in a trunk by the author's daughter and was not published until around 2005. According to the author's notes, Suite Francaise was planned as a five-book epic, but only the first two books were written.

As club member Bob noted, the book provides a window into the past. Member Deb Malbec felt that the book portrayed its characters as real people and not as cariactures. In fact, much of the discussion of this book focused on the various characters. Some other interesting points brought up include the following:
- The book seems to pose a jaded view of the French, especially those who have money.
- People might act good in the community, but war brings out the worst of human nature.
- People are rational during a crisis, so it seems natural to think of only oneself in tense situations, such as war.

Also during the meeting, two comments about the author:
- Nemirovsky was seen as a Jew, yet her literary works didn't really show much of a religious identity as a Jew.
- The author came from a wealthy family, which may explain why she seems to spend more time describing the upper class characters of the book.

The last part of the discussion pertained to how people in general have a side that is not typically seen. The character of Bruno, who in one scene is picking strawberries, reminds us that there is more to a character than what is on the outside. When we think of Germans in World War II, we imagine people who are soulless and inhumane, which is reinforced by the many WWII documentaries and films out there. Yet, it's not all true, as the book suggests. Another comment made in the meeting: the story is not about which side is good or bad, but rather the effects of war. And there's a line in the book that (because I can't recall the quote verbatim) has to do with watching a sea in both calm and in a storm. It's quite symbolic of the message that human beings have two sides, which can be revealed in different circumstances.

In the end, there was a mixed reaction to the book. Some people didn't like the writing or the characters. Others loved the book. But if there's one thing many agreed on, it's that a book originally written many decades ago before being published in the 21st century is quite remarkable. It's unfortunate that the remaining three books of the originally planned five-book series will never come to light, but looking at what has been written, Suite Francaise is, in a way, still a complete book, with a story that is worthy of discussion in any book club.
Charlie K.
user 10225405
Oakland, CA
Post #: 13
Thanks for the fine summing-up, Anthony.
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