Pierre and Agnès marry for love against the wishes of his parents and the family patriarch, the tyrannical industrialist Julien Hardelot, provoking a family feud which cascades down the generations. This is Balzac or The Forsyte Saga on a smaller, more intimate scale, the bourgeoisie observed close-up with Némirovsky’s characteristically sly humour and clear-eyed compassion. Full of drama and heartbreak, telling observation of the devastating effects of two wars on a small town and an industrial family, this is Némirovsky at the height of her powers. The exodus and flow of refugee humanity through the town in both wars foreshadows Suite Française, but differently, because this is Northern France, near the Somme, and the town itself is twice razed. Taut, evocative and beautifully paced, the novel points up with heartbreaking detail and clarity how close were those two wars, how history repeated itself, tragically, shockingly... It opens in the Edwardian era, on a fashionable Normandy beach, and ends with a changed world, under Nazi occupation.