Book Review: All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky

"People draw strength from adversity and the greater the struggle, the stronger they grow...She was engulfed by the profound darkness of war, a darkness from which it seemed there would be no escape, a war that would last until the end of time itself."

All Our Worldly Goods begins in 1910 with Agnes and Pierre very much in love, but Pierre is engaged to marry Simone. His parents are pleased with his betrothed, his grandfather the stoic and controlling Julien Hardelot is pleased with Pierre's betrothed, but Pierre is not. Pierre only sees in Simone a fleshly, plump, red-haired young woman. Simone, "made him feel nauseous, like a meal that is too heavy, too sweet. Nevertheless, they were engaged." When Agnes and Pierre finally express their love to each other and that they wish to risk it all in order to marry, their families are shocked and angry. Simone is devastated by the quick break-off. The book follows Agnes and Pierre showing the troubles brought on by parents and other family that never quite took to this (what they feel) mis-matched marriage. Simone's duress brings sympathy from Pierre's family, especially from the grandfather---old man Hardelot. World War I begins and Pierre joins the French army, occasionally he is able to come home to his wife and young son, then he is gone as quickly as if he'd just arrived. The book continues to follow this family until 1940, when the German's invaded and occupied Paris and most areas of France. The town that Agnes and Pierre lived in through most of the story is Saint Elme, France. The conditions brought on by the war's are written about in depth. The fear, evacuations, bombings, sickness, lack of food, destruction of homes, and death are brought to the reader's visual attention. The culture and society from 1910-1940 are brought in to the story, including how the older generations felt about the "changing times" about what was once not acceptable is now laissez-fare. Once again in All Our Worldly Goods the author gives a panoramic view of life in France (similar to her book Suite Francaise) especially focusing in on society standards. The story is fixated though on Agnes and Pierre, their love for each other and the transformation of their marriage through the years.

I loved this book and was quickly swept away by this story. I could easily relate to Agnes and Pierre's marriage beginnings, the depth of love they had for each other, the growing realizations of the transformation in their marriage, the quickness of time, and the anxieties over children and the choices they'd made. My curiosity was satisfied in what life was like for French citizens during World War I, the aftermath of the "Great War," and then World War II. It was was more difficult for me to understand the stickler society standards of marring beneath ones social status, or in marrying someone my parents had chosen for me----yet through this story, I better understood what it must have been like during past era's. Irene's writing was exceptionally beautiful and eloquent. If you have not read one of her books I highly recommend that you do, her prose is moving--it enraptures your heart.

"In Europe, it had already been three years since the final gust of victory had drifted away. A gnawing, worrying sense of anxiety gripped everyone. The world resembled a sick man who awakens with a moan, turns over in his bed and tries to forget his troubles, but in vain." page 128-129

All Our World Goods by Irene Nemirovsky was published September 2011 by Vintage International, A Division of Random House
First Published 1947 in France
272 Pages
Fiction but with historical context/World War I/World War II/France/Love Story/Society and Culture

Website for more information about author:
Other books written by Irene Nemirovsky:
Suite Francaise
Dimanche and Other Stories
Fire in the Blood
The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair

Link @ Amazon:
Not available on Kindle

Blissful Reading!


  1. I read this one recently and I just LOVED it. I loved the writing of it--the language. I found it just beautiful.

  2. I really need to read something by this author. I have Suite Francaise but haven't read it yet. And this one sounds really good, too. Will add your review on War Through the Generations.

  3. Thanks for the review. I haven't read this one yet, but sounds like a good one for the WWI reading challenge. We've got you linked on the reviews page and a snippet will appear on the main page on Jan. 25.

  4. This looks really good. I am going to 'pin' it for part of my challenge reading. Thank you.

  5. I'm doing the historical fiction challenge too...might have to add this to the list as well as I enjoyed Suite Francaise. Good luck :-)


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