Wednesday, 19 September 2018

"Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky - September 2018

General Feel and comments about the book:

- Presented a horrible story; horrible characters and horrible scenes of war
- There are many vignettes of different characters; it was so hard to remember all of them
- Everyone behaves differently because of the difficult situation
- It seemed excessive in some places
- It was a very detached writing of a story, there was no emotional involvement of characters
- It was almost written as if a picture is moving in front of you
- It was very French, an obvious standard translation with only slight changes
- When I read this book many years ago, it did not engaged me so much but now, I had a different feel of the stories and details

Specific comments:

- The focus on Fr. Philippe presents so much violence on its own
- It was so violent to kill a priest
- There were specific vignettes about the aristocratic French families
- The author had more negative details about the French than the Germans
- The German lieutenant was presented as an upper class German with a good family background and attractive physical appearance
- The love affair between Lucille and the German lieutenant was not credible; even how desperate that woman was, would she fall in love for him?
- Lucille was a strange character, she did not have a life; everything she did was controlled
- On the other hand, the love affair presented a “sense of oasis” in a desert
- I like the vignettes of people because you learn more about their character, especially the Mischaunds, the Perricands, the Perrins,etc.

- I feel sorry for Madeleine because Bennoit is someone who can run into a fistfight any time
- The author conveyed well about what happened to the dancer and the young man
- There was not much details about how WWII came to France. It seemed to show how France did not put up so much resistance to the Germans and instead just entered into terms of surrender with them to gain peace
- Towards the end, the book presented details of the intense rivalry between the farmers in the village and the towns people

Comments and feelings about how the author ended her book:

- It presents the challenge and reality that life has to go on
- It suggested that the country life would assert itself
- It describes how the ordinary people suffered from war and how it impacts them
- People involved in war are actually people
- One scene of the German lieutenant and Lucille seemed to suggest the relationship will go on; there was hope expressed to see each other again and to be together to enjoy life
- The ending was nice and likeable
- I like the ending as it suggests that the rural life should go on.
By May

By Lesley:
I did enjoy Suite Francaise although I must admit, I did not warm to some of the characters at first, despite them being well described and cleverly observed so that I felt that I knew some of them from personal experience(!). Then I read the really interesting Appendices, which pulled it all together and I was able to go back and appreciate the subtleties and conflicts much more clearly. I found it to be a book which made me ask more questions than I normally expect, and was tantalisingly understated in the face of such upheaval and destruction which is its background. For me, it was definitely a good read with depth and understanding of the fickleness of the human condition!

"H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald - August 2018

Members found this autobiographical work quite difficult to read, but it seemed appropriate, since it reflected a personality going through a mentally difficult time. The writing, and the characters that appear, felt disjointed. Some people didn't feel sympathy for what she was going through, so it was difficult to establish sympathy for the author herself, and made it quite hard to enjoy the book. Also, because the author was using her hawk to hunt, and got into the hunting process, made it harder to enjoy or commiserate with her. However, other group members were able to feel for the author's loss (the book is about her dealing with the sudden death of her father) and felt for her sinking into depression. It was lovely that she had learned patience from her father when bird-watching, for example. But it was difficult to follow the time scale of the book, no dates were mentioned, which corresponded with her state of grief and the feeling that her identity was dissolving after her loss. The hawk gave her back a focus to hold on to. The violence of hunting, and her use of hunting practices that were controversial, made it hard to fully be on her side, though, as it had too many aspects of cruelty.