Will’s letter to the book club:
As I write this, you will all now be reading, or just have finished, SUITE FRANCAISE by Irene Nemirovsky.
There is so much to say about this book, with its remarkable depiction of refugees fleeing Paris and of life under occupation. It is, I think, a great work of literature with extraordinarily nuanced characters. There are scenes of savage violence, but also some comic portrayals, and much on the nuanced divisions in French urban and village life. Then there’s the story behind the book’s preservation and publication. There’s the author herself, a complex and fascinating figure and the subject of a recent biography. There are so many issues today that the book speaks to — one example is the subject of child soldiers, an issue Mom cared about deeply having seen the devastating consequences in Liberia, Burma, and elsewhere of young boys and girls forced into war. And, of course, you can’t talk about this book outside the context in which it was written, or without discussing the historical events it describes, nor can you talk about it without being constantly aware that its author wrote it in desperate circumstances and was murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators before she could finish it.
So where do you even begin? I think the answer is simple: anywhere. But where do you end? That’s a more complicated question. Still, I think the answer is also simple. You don’t! This is one of those books Mom and I kept coming back to in our discussions, again and again. If it affects you as it affected us, I suspect the same will be true for you — that your conversations about this book go beyond the hours and bounds of your club.
I had a realization with Mom that it wasn’t that the book club became our life, it was more that our life became a book club. Or maybe it always had been — it just took Mom’s illness to help me figure that out.
I’m so looking forward to hearing about your discussions — the one you have during your meeting, but also the ones you have outside it.