France, 1940. In the first days of occupation, beautiful Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) is trapped in a stifled existence with her controlling mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) as they both await news of her husband: a prisoner of war. Parisian refugees start to pour into their small town, soon followed by a regiment of German soldiers who take up residence in the villagers’ own homes. Lucile initially tries to ignore Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts), the handsome and refined German officer staying with them. But soon, a powerful love draws them together and leads them into the tragedy of war.
Irène Némirovsky was already a renowned living in Paris when she began work on Suite Française in 1942. But due to events that transpired as she wrote it, the novel was unknown until it not rediscovered in 2006.
Publishers Weekly said of the novel:
Celebrated in pre-WWII France for her bestselling fiction, the Jewish Russian-born Némirovsky was shipped to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, months after this long-lost masterwork was composed. Némirovsky, a convert to Catholicism, began a planned five-novel cycle as Nazi forces overran northern France in 1940. This gripping “suite,” collecting the first two unpolished but wondrously literary sections of a work cut short, have surfaced more than six decades after her death. The first, “Storm in June,” chronicles the connecting lives of a disparate clutch of Parisians, among them a snobbish author, a venal banker, a noble priest shepherding churlish orphans, a foppish aesthete and a loving lower-class couple, all fleeing city comforts for the chaotic countryside, mere hours ahead of the advancing Germans. The second, “Dolce,” set in 1941 in a farming village under German occupation, tells how peasant farmers, their pretty daughters and petit bourgeois collaborationists coexisted with their Nazi rulers. In a workbook entry penned just weeks before her arrest, Némirovsky noted that her goal was to describe “daily life, the emotional life and especially the comedy it provides.” This heroic work does just that, by focusing—with compassion and clarity—on individual human dramas.