The theme of war is the most obvious in Nemirovsky's novel, Suite Française. For a war novel, though, violence is kept at a minimum. Some people are killed and other imprisoned, but these actions are kept in the background. The closest the novel comes to violence is in the murder of Philippe Péricand, the young priest who is brutally killed by the group of orphan boys he is sheltering from the war. The next closest incident of violence is seen through the healing process of Jean-Marie Michaud, who suffers from a war wound.
The elements of war that are most apparent are the discomforts of the local people, who must uproot their pre-war lives and adjust to the new circumstances. There is suffering. Mothers have lost sons to the war. Wives have lost husbands. There are food scarcities and the atmosphere is heavy with desperation for survival.
The war is also witnessed through the strain of enemy occupation. Villagers must feed and house German soldiers, members of the same army that took their own brothers' and friends' lives. The circumstances of World War II bring up memories of World War I that many of the old timers remember. War seems an inevitable part of the villagers' lives.
But the war also fosters the theme of compassion. Villagers often come together to help one another out when there are food and material shortages. They pretend to obey all the German restrictions placed on their lives and to respect the soldiers. But they also scheme behind the Germans' backs, even hiding a man who has killed one of the Germans. Lucile represents a different view, one that some of the other women also exemplify. Lucile tries to accept the German officer Bruno as just a man, stripped of his German nationality and his status of warlord. She does not fully understand war but she knows that French soldiers are seen as enemies by the Germans, just as the French see the Germans as villains. She comes...
(The entire section is 514 words.)