Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All Our Worldly Goods - Book Review

I am completely fascinated with the story of author Irene Nemirovsky. A Jewess, born in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century, Irene's family fled from Russia and resettled in France. Falling in love with France, Irene converted to Catholicism and considered it her home. She became a famous author, writing powerful and successful novels. All of this would not be enough to save her from the Nazis. During World War II, she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where she died.

I fell for her writing when I read Suite Francaise several years ago. Written during the war and published posthumously by her daughters, Suite Francaise describes life for the French during World War II. She is a talented writer with a gift for creating absolutely honest and believable characters. It's almost as if she is simply telling the reader about the neighbors she watches out her kitchen window. Yet, rather than just the voyeuristic reporter, she also understands and conveys their truly human desires, flaws and strengths.

I was anxious to read another novel by Irene Nemirovsky and was delighted to have the privilege to read and review All Our Worldly Goods. Published in French, the novel has been translated into English and is now being published in the United States.

As with Suite Francaise, in All Our Worldly Goods Nemirovsky again writes an elegant and beautiful book. Pierre and Agnes fall in love with each other in spite of the marriages their parents have carefully arranged for them. Breaking tradition and risking falling out of favor with family, they decide to marry each other. In brief snippets, Nemirovsky tells a family saga and how their brash and yet passionate decision will affect the generations. Her story and plot are so carefully planned that it rings absolutely true.

The love between Pierre and Agnes will survive two wars. Nemirovsky is at her greatest when describing the emotions of the French as they must evacuate their cities, yet again, as they are defeated by the Germans in the early years of World War II. Since she personally lived through this experience, she is in the unique position as observer and reporter. As I read the novel, my heart ached for the discouraged people who couldn't believe that they would see two great wars in one lifetime. Who simply didn't believe they could go on.Yet, in all the pain and depression of the war, Nemirovsky shows in her novels that life continues--people  are born and die. They love and they live.

Tragically, Nemirovsky was killed. We should be thankful that her powerful and beautiful work lives on.

**I received a complimentary copy of All Our Worldly Goods by Ireme Nemirovsky in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.

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