A book with two stories

A book with two stories.jpg

Stories behind stories are always fascinating, including stories behind how stories are written. On a trip last month, I took along Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky for my plane reading. I'd bought it earlier this summer knowing nothing about it (or its author) other than a friend loved it, but I hadn't opened it yet. I didn't like the cover as it looked like a movie set. Books with covers from the movie based on the book somehow seem like not the real thing and just a passing current fad and so there is a barrier to the opening. I was wrong about this book, however. Not only is it not a movie (at least I don't think it is), it was written over 60 years ago. That's where the story behind the story comes in. You can read about it in the book's supplementary material, which contains not only extensive introductory material, but also excerpts from Némirovsky's journal, where she wrote her thoughts about crafting this book, as well as related correspondence, all of which are as captivating as the book's created story set in France during World War II.

The book was handwritten in tiny script in a notebook in occupied Paris. Némirovsky, already a successful French novelist, would retreat to the nearby woods to sit on the ground, on her jacket, and write.  She was eventually taken to a concentration camp where she was killed. Her daughters took the notebook when they fled Paris. Decades later, one of her daughters used a magnifying glass to transcribe what they thought was simply a journal and found it contained a book comprised of two novellas. I love this back story, and I loved the book.

You can read the first chapter here.