Title: All Our Worldly Goods
Author: Irène Némirovksy
Summary: In haunting ways, this compelling novel prefigures Suite Française and some of the themes of Némirovsky’s great unfinished sequence of novels. All Our Worldly Goods, though, is complete, and exquisitely so — a perfect novel in its own right. First published in France in 1947, after the author’s death, it is a gripping story of family life and star-crossed lovers, set in France between 1910 and 1940.
Pierre and Agnes 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, and telling observations of the devastating effects of two wars on a small town and an industrial family, Némirovsky is at the height of her powers.
Taut, evocative and beautifully paced, the novel points out with heartbreaking detail and clarity how close those two wars were, how history repeated itself, tragically and shockingly. The story opens in the Edwardian era, on a fashionable Normandy beach and ends with a changed world under Nazi occupation.
My Rating: 8.5/10
What I liked/disliked about the book: Another phenomenal book by Némirovsky! I can’t get enough of her novels, her writing and her talent. It’s truly a shame she died before she could write more, because I would love to see what she could have done later on in her life. I grab any book by her I can get, and recommend you all do the same. This book was particularly well done, and I enjoyed it more than David Golder which I recently read by her. The writing style in this book and the characterization is on the same level as it was with Suite Française and has some haunting similarities when explaining the evacuation process during both of the wars. The emotions that went into it, the emotions waiting for the loved ones of all the characters to return safely home, and the emotions of returning back to your home town, after it’s been bombed were stunning. Her ability to create such a beautiful setting isn’t limited to a war setting either, all of the images she is able to paint, leapt off the pages, she really did have a beautiful, poetic ability to set up the scene with what seems to be little effort. For example;
It was a November day; the skies wept softly; the wind danced in the bride’s veil; the carriages crushed the last reddish leaves (page 32)
The story also follows a bit of “forbidden love”, the aristocratic families who disapprove of it, and all the struggle and journey’s that come with it. Although the idea behind two lovers marrying despite their rich, snobbish parents wishes is found in a lot of novels, Némirovsky handled it well, creating more dimension in her characters then what I’ve seen in similar books. Another thing that impressed me was how she was able to cover such a wide span of time in just under 200 pages. Even with poetic passages like the example above and a long span of time she was able to cover all of what she needed to tell a wonderful story, without allowing the reader to get bored. There were some parts that I found to be a little repetitive (the grandfather’s hatred, disapproval etc) but that is what made the characters who they were, and made the reader either love them, hate them or want to them to disappear off the pages for good. Overall another fantastic novel by Némirovsky and yet another book that will added to my “Books I need to Own” list!
Would I recommend it to read: I would highly recommend this book, especially if you’ve read Suite Française and are looking to read more of her novels. They are both up at that same level of story telling ability. And out of all the books I’ve read by her, (after Suite Française) recommend this one next in line to read. It’s a short novella, beautiful descriptions but it doesn’t take away from the story, so I think those who aren’t into a lot of descriptions could still enjoy the book. There are similarities to Suite Française, so some my find they’ve “read this before” if they already have read the books, but because the story has so much more than just the war, just remember it is a small part and there is also the aspect of a story of love, relationships and family tied in, so at least give this book a try.
What to read next: Suite Française, Diplomats Wife, Atonement.
Challenges: 100+ Challenge