In haunting ways, this compelling novel prefigures SUITE FRANCAISE 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.