I’ve belonged to a book club for eleven years now. It’s one of my favourite indulgences. What could be better than sitting around with a group of smart, funny, interesting people, sipping wine and talking about books, and then when tired of talking about books talking about religion, politics and then inevitably for some reason crazy, crazy sex stories? Well I guess a couple of things could be better, but let’s stay on track here.

Our 98th book club pick was Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. I highly recommend this book, but when you’re done reading the book you MUST read the appendix materials.

Suite Francaise is a darkly funny book about France in World War Two. It’s a great read but one of the most interesting things about it is that it was pretty much written WHILE the war was going on. No perspective or distance of time. Nemirovsky it turned out, did not end up having the luxury of time. She died in Auschwitz before she could finish the book. And the book itself lay hidden for sixty-four years, only published in 2004.

As I said, the book was good, but when you’ve finished the book and spent 367 pages with a very talented writer read the appendix material. It contains notes on how Nemirovsky would have finished the book if she had had time and most importantly it also contains the letters that her husband Michael Epstein sent out to publishers and friends, asking for help, when Nemirovsky was taken away. You can really feel his concern. desperation and panic over the fate of his wife, the lack of understanding as to what was really going on. I read this portion white-knuckled, the fiction of the book turned into a horrifying reality. Only a couple of months after his wife was arrested Epstein himself is taken away never to return. Their two young daughters, and this book hidden away in a suitcase, survived the war.

This was a great book club pick, lots to think and talk about. Highly recommended.

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