Feb 19, 2015

All Our Worldly Goods, by Irene Nemirovsky

Somehow, I never learned the story of Nemirovsky, who died in Auschwitz in 1942. I thought she was a contemporary author, and so the writing of this novel struck me as interestingly old-fashioned. Obviously, it feels old-fashioned because it is, in fact, old. Written so close to the events described therein, "All Our Worldly Goods" holds a quiet power within its pages. The story follows two lovers from their unplanned and accidental engagement just before World War I through to the invasion of France in WWII. I'm not sure why it never struck me until now, but there's one line that references the two wars occurring within the same lifetime, and it's staggering how much emotional devastation that must have caused. Pierre, the "first among equals" of main characters, fights in WWI, then his son fights in WWII. I'll admit I found it a tad dull until the very end, when Nemirovsky describes the destruction of the Hardelots' ancestral village and the terror of those fleeing the Germans. It's a quiet stunner, this short novel, a work that doesn't seem significant until after it is done.

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