Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Glorious Portrayal of a Rather Unglorious Moment

I'm halfway through Suite Francaise, but given that it's long (well longer than my usual recent fare at least) and the book is really two totally separate stories, I figured it's okay for me to post a halfway through review - so here it is :))

Suite Francaise has been strongly recommended to me by the highest sources (that would be the Sp's :)) so I naturally had to read it, though it took me I think 3 times getting it out from the library to actually get into it.  Since it's a book about wartime France, I wasn't expecting a barrel of laughs at all - I know the chief attraction here is the writing, and it is well written.  But come on, there are plenty of well written books - I mean, Tolstoy anyone? so I assumed this book had something more to recommend it.

But halfway through, I'm not sure what that is.  It's an *extremely* powerfully written portrayal of the war in France (the first part, Storm in June, is about the fall of France to the Germans and the public's flight from Paris) but do I need to read more war books? Especially when they are written by a self hating Jew about a group of people who did not do more than they should have either to resist the Germans or to save their country's Jews.  I asked Batya what the attraction was and she said it was interesting - well it is that.  I always say that travel is my favorite genre... but still, war books! and a war book with no real story, whose purpose is really just to give the reader an idea of the panic of the time.  It does do that - I started reading it on the bus on the way from NY and there was traffic and I totally felt for all those people in a standstill in packed cars on the road from Paris.

And the characters! Never mind unsympathetic, these characters are mostly deliberately cruel or disgusting - I think that's part of the point of the book, showcasing how war brings out the worst in people, but with all that, they are still people (still French people too :)) Well yay for them - but when I know what was going on elsewhere in Europe at the time, forgive me if I have less than zero interest. And anyway, I don't know if French people are that despicable, but I know the people I know aren't that bad.

So it was powerful, but I just don't know why I'd particularly want to read it - other than to bring the average tone of my reading material up significantly :)

Will report back to you with a review of the second half and verdict whenever I finish

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