I went to the Reno Newcomers Club Book Club yesterday. It was my first time attending this book club and I was very impressed. We had a good thought provoking discussion. Of course probably part of the reason the discussion was so good was that the book is so good.
We discussed Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. Her characters and her descriptions are stunning. I'm still amazed by how much I cared about the characters. The book consists of two parts. The first called Storm in June tells the story of several people trying to escape Paris as the Germans get close. I even cared about the obnoxious characters. And her descriptions of the chaos and especially of the country side have stuck with me. Her writing is a work of art. It reminds me of a Renoir painting.
One of the points that was made in the book club discussion is that most books about war are written with perspective after the war. Part of what makes Suite Francaise different is that it is written from the middle of the war. She didn't know how things would turn out. People are just normal even in the face of very extraordinary circumstances.
The second part of the book is called Dolce. It is about a small town and a few of the families with whom the Germans are billeted. You might think that Nemirovsky would write about the Germans with hate but she writes about them as very real people. Her characters deal with the tension between the Germans as invaders and as attractive young men.
This is the first fiction book I have read in a long time and as usual with fiction I empathized with the characters and found my mood impacted as a result. I was also haunted by knowing that this is an unfinished book since Nemirovsky was arrested by the Germans and was killed at Auschwitz.