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Steve recently got himself into a bit of hot water over at This Space for suggesting that Suite Française is being praised more for its backstory than for its inherent quality. I'll read my copy as soon as I can find it (like a good few other books, I'm struggling to pin it down since we moved), but I fear Steve is probably right. Its glowing reception does seem suspect: I hope it is not simply because of a nostalgic wish for "proper novels" and due to respect for its author's travails. But the remarkable story of the writing of the book does seem to be most reviewers' focus rather than the novel itself. Just look at the way Kazuo Ishiguro (from this weekend's Guardian summer reading article) encourages us to read it:


Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française, written as Nazi tanks rolled across France, captures the chaos, fear, humiliation, and very occasionally, the courage of the French, as well as portraying the complex emotions that developed between occupier and occupied. The story behind this novel, and Némirovsky's own fate, make for a heart-breaking coda.

It's the story within the novel that I want to read. The backstory is history and sociology, I'm interested to read it only if it works as literature.

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