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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 14 October 2014
A purchase to listen in my car on long car journeys.
Eleanor Bron is the story teller, she is absolutely brilliant.
Two families caught up in business, in the periods of WW1 and WW2, set in France.
Irene Nemoirovsky, the author, writes with perceptions of how the characters feel about their particular circumstances, and the mores of those times.
Those pressures are recognisable today.
I sometimes feel she "skips", and misses potential in depth descriptions and stories that could have been told.
So much so, I repeatedly checked I had the unabridged version!
Nevertheless, it is the sort of family saga, that could lend itself to a major dramatisation series, if padded out that bit more.
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on 18 January 2009
All Our Worldly Goods is the story of the Hardelots, a family of industrialists living in Saint-Elme, Northern France. The family has established their factory and the local population, who provide all the necessary labour, and all are ruthlessly ruled over by ageing patriarch, Julien Hardelot.

The story begins in 1911 and follows the lives of Pierre, grandson of Julien, and Agnes Florent, the daughter of a local widow. Pierre and Agnes are childhood sweethearts and deeply in love, but this is still a time and a place where the petit-Bourgeois arranged marriages for their offspring and Agnes is not deemed the social equal of Pierre. Pierre is engaged to Simone Renaudin, whose dowry brings the Renaudin fortune to the Hardelots, and one can sense Julien's impatience at getting access to it so that he can invest it in the business. The engagement dinner duly takes place and the future is planned and predictable, just as Saint-Elme and Julien desire it to be.

Suddenly, however, everything changes when Pierre and Agnes meet alone in nearby woods. Knowing how this will be judged by the high-minded moral standards in Saint-Elme, Madame Florent visits Pierre's parents where she mourns the loss of her daughter's prospects in marriage. Pierre overhears the heated conversation and steps in, informing them that he will marry Agnes. Oblivious to his parent's entreaties not to, he will not be dissuaded and their lives are set on a very different course. True to form, Julien disowns his grandson and, feeling their future lies elsewhere, Pierre and Agnes move away to Paris. From then on, our story follows Pierre and Agnes and the fate of the Hardelots, as well as Simone and the town of Saint-Elme, through the First World War, that period entre deux guerres, and into 1940 and the midst of the second great conflict.

This is an exquisite, intimate portrait of love blind to any consequences, of commerce and greed, and of a society at its snobbish peak razed to the ground, literally, not once, but twice by the horrors and realities of war. One cannot help but be aware of Nemirovsky's own life when she portrays the French refugees fleeing the invading German army, redolent of her own family's flight from Russia, and yet it is not a story without hope. Love can overcome despair and give one the strength needed when such awful history unbelievably repeats itself, even reconciliation is possible.

It is a beautiful novel.
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First published in 1947, five years after the author's death at Auschwitz, Irène Némirovsky's beautifully written 'All Our Worldly Goods' begins shortly before the outbreak of WWI and focuses on the intertwining lives of the members of two bourgeois French families, as the story moves through three decades until the early part of WWII. Childhood friends Pierre Hardelot and Agnès Florent fall in love, but the dutiful Pierre follows his authoritarian grandfather's wishes and becomes engaged to the wealthy Simone Renaudin. Agnès, meanwhile, comes to an understanding with a middle-aged doctor, whose suitability as a husband has been impressed upon her by mother and, particularly, Pierre's mother, who is anxious that her son actually commits himself to the forthcoming - and, financially, very advantageous - marriage to Simone. But events conspire against Madame Hardelot, and Agnès and Pierre get their wish and marry and look forward to a long and productive life together - however their marriage causes a lasting family feud which continues to reverberate through to the generation which follows - but as this novel is barely 200 pages in length, I shall leave the remainder of the story for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

Moving from the First World War to the Second, Irène Némirovsky's 'All Our Worldly Goods' is brief, but beautifully written story which provides the reader with a concise, yet compassionate portrait of marriage and of French family life. The novel is full of luminous vignettes - for example the picturesque scene which appears early on in the story where Madame Hardelot and Madame Florent share a beach hut and take a swim together to discuss their offspring's marriage prospects, is beautifully rendered and enjoyable to read. However, as the story progresses, and the author moves her narrative on to the catastrophe of war, the dreadful plight of French families fleeing the German army is brought home to the reader and the descriptions become more taut and tensely written; that said, there is a stoicism and, importantly, an underlying feeling of optimism and hope to this story, where the author shows Agnès coming to the realization that: "As long as hope remained alive within her, she was invincible. She was sure of it."

4 Stars.
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on 5 April 2017
With grand themes of war, love, class and changing fortunes over decades, this novel has many echoes of many classic, European 19th century novels from the likes of Austen to Zola, but Nemirovsky retains her own distinctive voice. One of the aspects I always enjoy about her work is the way she captures the female mind and how effortlessly she manages to get that onto the page, bringing a real depth and conviction to the work.

Praise must also go to the translator, Sandra Smith, who’s sterling work assured that none of the potency got lost in the translation from French. The descriptions of death and war taking on particularly chilling qualities in light of what happened to Nemirovsky in that very war, where in spite of converting to Roman Catholicism she would meet her death in the camps at Auschwitz at only 39.
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The book tells the story of two families, beginning just before the First World War and ending with the Second World War. It is in part a study of French social history in the period - the chief protagonists being the bourgeois Hardelot family. I came to this book after having read Suite Francaise probably a year or more ago.

I loved Suite Francaise but this one didn't grab me. I found the prose leaden and stilted - I am not sure if this was because the author/translator was trying to evoke the stultifying society described or whether it simply reflects a lesser book. I suspect the latter as the prose still seemed dull to me when the story moved away from the description of 'society'. One example is the description of the flight from war in Suite Francaise which had a real sense of terror and urgency. The same scenes in All Our Worldly Goods seemed very flat by comparison. At times I thought the dialogue edged into melodrama and there was too much 'telling' and not enough 'showing' for my liking. Another reviewer has mentioned that the book feels more like a draft than a fully realised novel and I understand why he says this. I often felt that too. Occasionally I came across sections that did seem more fully formed but this didn't last more than a few pages.

I didn't care for any of the characters and they all seemed like cardboard cut-outs for me, no real depth. I didn't find the story involving either. The aim seems to be a story on an epic scale but, for me at least, the novel doesn't deliver. Probably 2 ½ stars.
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What is so touching in this beautifully written and beautifully translated family saga is that rare thing in fiction: a portrait of a husband and wife, Pierre and Agnès, who love each other throughout their marriage. They had married for love, in defiance of Jean Hardelot, Pierre's autocratic grandfather. He is a factory owner who powerfully dominated everyone in Sainte-Elme, the small coastal town near the Belgian frontier. The name is invented; but there is a real place called Hardelot in the area. He had arranged for Pierre to marry Simone, a wealthy heiress and had indeed organized an engagement which Pierre had broken off. The old man grudgingly employed his grandson, as he employed Roland Burgères, whom the jilted heiress had married; but he refused to receive Agnès until he did so grudgingly, shortly before he died, about half way through the book.

The social background of provincial France is ever present, with all the snobberies, prejudices and gossip of the bourgeoisie which marks all the minute gradations of society. So is the historical background of the period, and all the characters are caught up in it. Pierre enlists in the First World War; he survives it, though with wounds which hurt him ever afterwards. The little town was all but destroyed during the war, but was rebuilt. The factory suffers during the depression, and Pierre is in financial difficulties. There is the doom-laden atmosphere before Munich and again before the outbreak if the Second World War, with the terrible memories of the last one; the strange lull of the phoney war; then, in 1940, the refugees pouring down the same roads as they had in 1914.

In some respects history repeats itself also for Guy, Pierre's son and for Rose, Simone's daughter.

Many of the characters are truly memorable. In the first part the novel is very economically written, moving swiftly, sometimes abruptly or laconically, from one happening to another; but second part, with the approach of the Second World War and then the events up to 1940 (where the novel movingly ends) has the vividness of something the author has personally experienced.
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on 1 February 2009
A beautifully written book, by one of our 'lost' literary greats. Nemirovsky is most well-known for her novel Suite Francaise, a novel that not only has a poignantly sad affair at its heart, but also carries its own desperate tale as Nemirovsky never completed it. All Our Wordly Goods, translated from the French, is set against the 1914 - 18 war - from a French perspective - and tells the story of two young people and their journey through the Great War. Nemirovsky wrote this barely 10 years after the end of WW1; indeed she herself lived through some of the consequences of the war, as a White Russian fleeing the Bolsheviks in 1917 Russia. Her writing style is uniquely hers, and very poetic. A writer to discover and explore.
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on 19 December 2009
So much is contained within the modest pages of this book. A complete family saga, with all the passions, jelousies, misunderstandings, joys and sorrows that life entails. The story is set in a small French town and spans the period from pre First World War, to post Second World War. The reader is instantly involved with the main characters of Pierre and Agnes, whose love story forms the backbone of the book.

There are moments of great poignancy, and the odd twist or two. Mostly, the story carries you along with it at a great rate, galloping through the years and troubles, from one generation to the next. I was amazed at how many years the plot covered, and yet how restrained the writing is. There is not a word too many, no padding or waffling, it is all perfectly relevent. Although set so many years ago, the basic messages of this story are timeless. I enjoyed it more than Suite Francais, I think because it is complete, sparse, and balanced
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on 28 September 2012
Is it optimism or denial that permeates Irene Nemirovsky's ALL OUR WORLDLY GOODS? I cannot seem to discern if she is telling us that even in the face being abandoned by ones family for making the wrong choices, even in the midst of war and deprivation, and even when all seems lost that love and devotion will conquer all and that one must always hope for the best in life.

The book begins on a tranquil Normandy beach prior to WWI and takes us through 30 years in the lives of Romeo and Juliet style lovers Pierre and Agnes. The only "rebellion" within the two seems to be their insistence on avoiding their respective arranged marriages and defying family and tradition by marrying each other. After that bold step the rest of their lives appear to be filled with scenario after scenario of quiet acceptance of every obstacle, from a war to an unforgiving grand-father, which is placed in their paths.

That this book has received rave reviews, is due perhaps to the fate that ultimately befell the author at Auschwitz. It is always sad to contemplate the loss of a promising talent, particularly when it is obliterated in such a brutal way. I have read several books recently that are set in this time period and while I did enjoy Ms. Nemirovsky's book it is not, in my opinion, of the same caliber as Laura Hillenbrand's UNBROKEN or even Sebastian Faulks BIRDSONG. 3 stars.
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Reading Irene Nemirovsky's pitch perfect narrative stories is like attending a writer's seminar. She combines well-paced and evocative storytelling with three-dimensional characters who are credible and easy for the reader to relate to. "All Our Worldly Goods" certainly fits the mold.

Mainly the story of the Hardelot family, an upper bourgeois clan dominating a small northern French town, it is also a commentary on the social and cultural mores of the period and, a thoroughly informed and credible account of the effects of war on a civilian population. Somehow, author Nemirovsky maintains an optimistic voice throughout this novel which more often than not is a chronicle of setbacks and disappointments for the central figures, Pierre and Agnes Hardelot. There is abundant satiric humor threaded through the book as well, particularly as the principals struggle with stifling and restrictive social norms that were typical of small town France and its bourgeois society in the early 20th Century.

This is a highly entertaining and well-written novel by a writer at the top of her game. Her best known work, "Suite Francaise", cold be seen as a follow on to "All Our Worldly Goods" as it takes another group of characters deeper into the period of German occupation of France.
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