Pierre and Agnès marry for love against the wishes of his parents and the family patriarch, the tyrannical industrialist Julien Hardelot, provoking a family feud which cascades down the generations. This is Balzac or The Forsyte Saga on a smaller, more intimate scale, the bourgeoisie observed close-up with Némirovsky's characteristically sly humour and clear-eyed compassion. Full of drama and heartbreak, telling observation of the devastating effects of two wars on a small town and an industrial family, this is Némirovsky at the height of her powers. The exodus and flow of refugee humanity through the town in both wars foreshadows Suite Française, but differently, because this is Northern France, near the Somme, and the town itself is twice razed. Taut, evocative and beautifully paced, the novel points up with heartbreaking detail and clarity how close were those two wars, how history repeated itself, tragically, shockingly. It opens in the Edwardian era, on a fashionable Normandy beach, and ends with a changed world, under Nazi occupation.More
"Pierre and Agnes, each promised to another by their overbearing families, break the tight bonds of convention and marry. Eleanor Bron's delicate, infinitely sympathetic narration emphasises the emotional depth of Nemirovsky's writing." [Observer]
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A different view of war, told in the quiet moments
Quietly emotional. War.
On the whole, I liked this story. Much too much droning on about feelings for my taste, but I loved the descriptive style, which made me feel like I was right there; on the beach, watching the fireworks, or in Saint-Elme, or on the road with the refugees. Initially, I found the way that the author skips over major events quite odd, conditioned as I am by Hollywood movies and blockbuster novels. But I started to find this really interesting - how she told the story through the quiet moments. It also presented an alternative viewpoint of war to the grimy, violent one in my head - the waiting, not knowing what's going on; the sun still shining, the birds singing and the flowers blooming.
I haven't listened to any other performances by Eleanor Bron, but she has a lovely voice and a beautiful pronunciation of the French (not that I'd know if it was wrong!).
No, it's quite slow paced.