cover image All Our Worldly Goods

All Our Worldly Goods

Ir%C3%A8ne N%C3%A9mirovsky, trans. from the French by Sandra Smith. Vintage, $14.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-307-74329-9

A world at war ruptures the orderly lives of two French provincial families connected by marriage in this serenely beautiful tale by French novelist N%C3%A9mirovsky (Suite Fran%C3%A7aise). In the northern village of Saint-Elme, early in the 20th century, Pierre, the scion of the Hardelot Paper Mill family, marries Agn%C3%A8s Florent, whose mother is a Parisian widow of the lower middle class. The union defies Pierre's redoubtable grandfather, and the newlyweds are cast out of the village. Yet together they thrive and have a son before Pierre is called to fight in WWI. "He didn't think he would be saved, he alone among thousands of men," yet he is, returning from the front a wounded man. The villagers in tiny Saint-Elme flee the encroaching Germans, lose their husbands and sons in battle, and watch their children grow up only to face another world war. The bourgeois importance of keeping up appearances, so skillfully delineated ("Society relies entirely on nuances," notes Pierre's father, to which his mother replies, "And stupidity."), is both undermined and bolstered by the love between Agn%C3%A8s and Pierre. This is another stunning translation by Smith of the tremendously stirring N%C3%A9mirovsky, who died in Auschwitz at the age of 39. (Sept.)