House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family

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Jewish family histories are becoming a genre, a fascinating one. The theme becomes more clear with each one read. The beginnings mostly in eastern Europe and the late eighteenth or nineteenth century. The eager, courageous migration from discrimination to safer soil until the Holocaust destroys nascent hopes. But then the phoenix rising from the rubble and at least one family member achieving measurable success. Hadley Freeman, an English author and journalist, a member of the Glahs-cum-Glass family, shares a decade of widely traveled research.

Add her chronicle to those already in the catalog, none better loved or more admired than de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes and Lagnardo’s The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, both with origins in different lands, both confronting loss before a better day dawned. This cannot be a Jewish ‘thing’ this retrieval without a boast, with perpetual anxiety, boundless angst. But it is. And as a Jewish reviewer, I recognize Freeman’s ability to glide gracefully from one uncle to another, each one bewilderingly changing his name to establish a new homeland. Lots of family photos to be remembered, images of the glowering great-grandmother Chaya, defiantly ignoring the language of Paris, her home for decades. And Freeman especially rooting for Grandma Sala, unhappily married in America for forty years, always elegantly dressed, a reluctant lady of the old school.

This version of the saga, and a saga it certainly is, is a distanced chronicle written without the familiar ambivalence between sympathy and disparagement, the absence of barely acknowledged love and admiration. It makes for wider appreciation, but to others, perhaps deliberately, it just isn’t heimish.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 352 pages
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publish Date 2020-03-24
ISBN 9781501199158 Buy this Book
Issue May 2020
Category Biographies & Memoirs


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