This is the second novel I picked up from the library, the first being ‘Fire in the Blood’ a tale of the consequence of indulging forbidden love. ‘All Our Worldly Goods’ has a similar theme but with different circumstances and this is more a story of what happened in the early 1990’s to those who preferred to make their own decisions regarding matrimony rather than follow the sage advice of their parents or in this case Grandfather. It is also a prelude to Némirovsky’s masterpiece ‘Suite Francaise’.
This is an era where marrying for love can be serious enough an outrage to find oneself disinherited. When there is only one son and heir and the family fortunes are dwindling, it is necessary that said son marries a woman with a significant and esteemed dowry. Pierre Hardelot follows his heart rather than his head and becomes estranged from his family just before being conscripted into the army to fight in the First World War.
With the onset of war, their families are forced to abandon the village, some fleeing by car, others on foot, only to eventually return to ruins, which they set about rebuilding in the hope that something as horrific and terrible as this war they have experienced can never be repeated.
However history has a habit of repeating itself, and so it does in both love and war. Another generation and an heiress banished by her family due to long standing interfamily resentments, and another son called up to war. Fortunately death, destruction and shared traumatic experiences can provide the necessary ingredients for forgiveness, especially when strong, capable, male resources become a scarce commodity.
It is an interesting story depicting the lead up to the forced evacuations by families from the cities and provinces to find safety from the advancing invading armies, though it is dealt with lightly and there is nothing of the terror that one assumes must have consumed Némirovsky herself, knowing what her own family went through. In this story we are never confronted with the invaders and neither do we have a very real feeling for how war must have changed Pierre.
First published in 1947, five years after her death at Auschwitz, this book can now seen in context with the more recently published collection of Némirovsky’s works, unearthed by her biographers.