All Our Worldly Goods: A Novel of Love Between the Wars

Written by Irène Némirovsky Sandra Smith (trans.)
Review by Elena Maria Vidal

Russian-born writer Irène Némirovsky, who escaped the Communists only to be killed by the Nazis for her Jewish heritage, was a Catholic convert who captured the soul of her adopted country, France, in her many novels. Her novel Les Biens de ce monde, originally published in 1947 several years after her death in the Nazi concentration camp, has been translated as “all our worldly goods,” but it can also be said to mean “the goods of this world” and indeed, the book celebrates the aspects of life which give the most joy and beauty.

In Mme Némirovsky’s masterpiece, the things which bring the most happiness to life are faith, children, home life, and the enduring love of a man and a woman. While drawing the portrait of the life-long romance between her hero and heroine Pierre and Agnes, Mme Némirovsky also presents a searing exposé of the hypocrisies and false values of provincial bourgeois France. A story of adventure and love amid the wars and social upheaval of the first part of the 20th century, it shows how Pierre and Agnes, who risk losing everything in order to be together, in the end have what really matters most. Written in stirring, restrained prose with vivid yet subtle descriptions, All Our Worldly Goods is a book for all lovers of romance and history.