David Golder by Irene Nemirovsky was first published in 1929 and it was her first book to be published.
In 1930 The New York Times said of it: The work of a woman who has the strength of one of the masters like Balzac or Dostoyevsky.
I really like Nemirovsky’s writing and although I enjoyed this one it isn’t close to being a favourite. I can see that a lot of people would see it as being anti-semitic, but I see it as just being anti shallow, grasping and self-obsessed people, and there are plenty of them around in every society – no matter what religion or tradition people have been brought up in.
David Golder is getting on in years, he’s very wealthy but he has worked hard to get to where he is, with a fabulous property in Paris and an even more beautiful one in Biarritz. His wife Gloria and horribly spoiled daughter Joyce spend most of their time in Biarritz where they spend his money as fast as he can make it, but they are never satisfied. They always want more jewellery and better cars.
But Golder’s business affairs are very precarious, not that his wife believes that, she thinks he is just being mean with his money. although her idea of mean would be anybody else’s idea of generosity.
When he begins to have pains in his chest he does his best to ignore them but the stress of his business problems make him more ill until he eventually collapses. You might think that that would shock his wife, but of course all she is worried about is the lack of money. She has been supporting her lover financially for 20 years and she knows he’s only with her for the money too. The doctor wants Golder to retire from business but Gloria insists that he can’t tell her husband to do that, she needs him to keep supplying her with money and doesn’t seem to realise that when he dies her meal ticket will end anyway.
Golder recovers – after a fashion – but he gives up business and as his possessions disappear to pay debts, so does his wife. Joyce had fallen for a pretty but penniless young man and had already left with him, expecting her father to cable money to her whenever she needed it.
After living a very simple life for some time and finding a sort of contentment, it’s Joyce’s need for money that leads her father to go to Russia to complete one last oil deal, it is of course fatal.
Obviously Nemirovsky was influenced by everything that was going on in the world stock markets around the time she was writing this book, and probably by her mother too.