I read this as it was a recommendation from my daughter and she kindly passed this copy onto me once she had finished with it. I am so glad that she did so because it is such a moving account of the experiences of the everyday lives of French citizens during the Second World War and particularly during the German occupation.
For me this story is particularly poignant because although the author started to write this novel in 1941 she never wrote beyond the first two sections as she died whilst a prisoner of war at Auschwitz. Some sixty five years later the manuscript was rediscovered by Irene Nemirovsky’s daughter and published to receive critical acclaim. Her daughter had always thought it was her mother’s diary that she kept as a memento and it was not until she decided to read the manuscript that she realised it was actually a novel.
The intention had been to write a five part epic saga, however it still works in its incomplete form with just the two sections ‘Storm in June’ and ‘Sweet’.
It is set during the year that France fell to the Germans, the ‘Storm in June set in Paris as the inhabitants flee the city. As transport and distribution collapse while the Germans bomb Paris, the narrative follows several groups of characters as they try to escape the chaos. The second part, ‘Sweet’ takes us to rural France where the inhabitants of a small village are endeavouring to learn to live with the new regime, that has taken over everything they know and love. Both parts have an eclectic cast of characters that despite the disarray all around them manage to find hope and love in the most unexpected places. The novel ends after a scene in which the Germans are celebrating the first anniversary of the occupation of Paris. A bittersweet celebration, the title of ‘ Dolce’ ‘Sweet’ is an ironic but truthful title as bitter emotions bubble away under the surface of this part of the novel. It is interesting that part three, for which notes were written was to be a far more traumatic sequel.
It is a tragedy that Irene Nemirovsky never got to finish this emotional novel of humanity under stress, which I found a compelling read.
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