Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. What a read.
The author is new to me, heard a review on NPR somewhere. The book is a compilation of two novelettes, planned to be two of five. Tragically, the author (a Russian Jew) died in Auschwitz prior to completion of the remaining three sections, a victim of the war of which she was writing. So what's great about it?
To start with, her prose. It's just lovely, there's no other word for it. Like putting on a cashmere sweater. Soft, rich, and warm.
The plot follows the course of several unrelated characters as they negotiate the German invasion of Paris in 1940, and then their experience with the German occupation of a small French village. I'm not a history buff - I can't even quote you the dates of the World Wars without looking them up. And I'm certainly not into the war genre. But this book grabbed me. Madame Nemirovsky chose to follow war from the point of view of the ones left behind: the wives, mothers, elderly, young, and infirmed. She tackles class divide, nationalism, patriotism, heroism, and loyalty. There was scarcely a character I couldn't relate to.
Most impressive, though, was her ability to nail the common human emotions that we all feel. I found the relationship between the German soldiers and the French townspeople fascinating, and very relevant to our current military situation.
All in all, highly recommended.
Pace yourself. You'll be sad when it's over.