Friday, April 18, 2008

Too Perfect?

I am really enjoying Suite Française. It is the perfect book to end the semester; an easy read. However, as I continue reading, I am wondering if this book is too perfect. It seems like most of our understanding of WWII is centered around concentration camps, namely Auschwitz. Nemirovsky has an unusual way of writing; she is able to capture various snapshots of the war without being bitter and full of resentment. This novel could have focused more on the negative aspects of war, death, Nazi invasion, walking from Paris to wherever in the June heat, etc. However, even though people die there is still a nice story underneath. Right before Father Pericand is killed by the orphans, he sees a world untouched by war.

“Philippe thought he had never heard so many vibrant, joyous songs nor seen so many swarms all around him. Hay, strawberries, blackcurrants, the little sweet-smelling flowers in the borders, each flower bed, each lawn, each blade of grass gave off a soft buzzing sound, like a spinning wheel. All these small plots had been tended with care; all of them had an archway covered with roses, a tunnel where you could still see the last lilacs of the season, two iron chairs, a bench in the sunshine” (138-139).

Even though Philippe is a man of God, he is still not free from the confines of war. Philippe is able to see the serene world around him, but he dies a death that is not noble by any means. In many regards, Philippe becomes a victim of war, the orphans representing the invasion that Philippe falls prey to.

I am most surprised with Irene Nemirovsky’s ability to see the world in such a serene way despite being Jewish. The fear that must have been felt trying to keep her family safe is not present in the novel. Rather than experiencing emotions that the general public felt during this terrifying time of invasion, Nemirovsky focuses on the most minute of details. For instance, the cat catching the bird and the feelings of the Michaud’s leaving their home with all of the memories still intact. No one seems to experience an extreme degree of emotion. Madame Pericand had placed her faith in God, Philippe is a man of God, Langlet is focused on himself and ignores the reality of the war. Every person has their own personal reasons for behaving the way that they do.

I can’t decide if I like that all of the characters become interwoven in the same fabric or if I think it is trite. It demonstrates that people experience the same threatening manner in similar ways although it may not be apparent to others at the time. However, it just seems to be kind of forced. I am beginning to think that Nemirovsky wrote this novel as a way of coping, I may not understand it, but it made sense to her. Suite Francaise is different from other WWII books, there is both triumph and tragedy.

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