As with Suite Française, Irène Némirovsky’s remarkable novel about the opening years of the Second World War, All Our Worldly Goods concerns itself with flight, the frenzied scramble for safety from advancing danger. Only here there are two flights: from the shelling in the Somme at the start of the First World War, and later from the German soldiers marching through Belgium and into Northern France in the early summer of 1940. Seen through the eyes of the Hardelots, a family of wealthy industrialists, the years from 1911 to 1940 (the span of this novel) were ones of panic, destruction, careful rebuilding and a new descent into chaos.
Pierre, only grandson of the tyrannical patriarch Julien Hardelot, breaks off an arranged match with the rich, but stout and phlegmatic, Simone in order to marry his pretty childhood love, Agnès. When war breaks out in 1914, he is called away to the front. As fighting advances through Northern France,