by Julie HaleApril, 2007
A chilling pair of novellas
A best-selling author in France prior to World War II, Némirovsky, a Russian-born Jew, was deported to Auschwitz in 1942, cutting short her plans to write a quintet of novels about life in France under the Nazis. The two novellas she managed to complete are featured in Suite Française, a book that has been hailed as a masterpiece and a milestone of World War II literature. The first narrative in the book, "Storm in June," recounts the evacuation of Paris during the German invasion of 1940. Némirovsky follows various Parisians as they try to make their escape, delivering portraits of numerous families and the people they meet as the net of the Nazis closes around them. The second novella, "Dolce," looks at life in a rural village under German occupation, as the natives—shop owners, wealthy aristocrats and farm laborers alike—are forced to open their homes to the soldiers. Some of the villagers acquiesce to the demands of the Germans, while others resist. Némirovsky uses the varied reactions of her characters to explore the nature of humanity itself, and the results are chilling. In both parts, she looks at issues of class and race, writing from a perspective that modern readers will find invaluable. Némirovsky entrusted the manuscripts to her daughters upon her arrest, and 64 years after the fact, they shed haunting light on one of the darkest periods in world history.