In haunting ways this wonderful, compelling novel prefigures Suite Francaise and some of the themes of Nemirovsky'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 starcrossed lovers, of money and greed, set against the backdrop of France from 1911 to 1940 between two terrible wars.
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 Nemirovsky's characteristically sly humour and clear-eyed compassion. Full of drama and heartbreak, telling observation of the devastating effects of two wars on a small town and an industrial family, this is Nemirovsky at the height of her powers. The exodus and flow of refugee humanity through the town in both wars foreshadows Suite Francaise, but differently, because this is Northern France, near the Somme, and the town itself is twice razed. Taut, evocative and beautifully paced, the novel points up with heartbreaking detail and clarity how close were those two wars, how history repeated itself, tragically, shockingly... It opens in the Edwardian era, on a fashionable Normandy beach, and ends with a changed world, under Nazi occupation.