House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman (audio Book) Narrated by Hadley Freeman


House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman (audio Book) Narrated by Hadley Freeman



After her grandmother died, Hadley Freeman travelled to her apartment to try and make sense of a woman she’d never really known. Sala Glass was a European expat in America – defiantly clinging to her French influences, famously reserved, fashionable to the end – yet to Hadley much of her life remained a mystery. Sala’s experience of surviving one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history was never spoken about.

When Hadley found a shoebox filled with her grandmother’s treasured belongings, it started a decade-long quest to find out their haunting significance and to dig deep into the extraordinary lives of Sala and her three brothers. The search takes Hadley from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island and to Auschwitz.

By piecing together letters, photos and an unpublished memoir, Hadley brings to life the full story of the Glass siblings for the first time: Alex’s past as a fashion couturier and friend of Dior and Chagall, trusting and brave Jacques, a fierce patriot for his adopted country and the brilliant Henri who hid in occupied France – each of them made extraordinary bids for survival during the Second World War. And alongside her great-uncles’ extraordinary acts of courage in Vichy France, Hadley discovers her grandmother’s equally heroic but more private form of female self-sacrifice.

A moving memoir following the Glass siblings throughout the course of the 20th century as they each make their own bid for survival, House of Glass explores assimilation, identity and home – issues that are deeply relevant today.

My Review:

As we are all in the pandemic lockdown I have been reading a lot more that I normally would do if that is at all possible. But I decided to also to listen to a few audio books and recommend these as part of my reviews. One book I wanted to read was House of Glass by Hadley Freeman and I decided that this was to be my first lockdown audio book review.

Hadley Freeman byline picture. 
Photo by Linda Nylind. 24/5/2013

House of Glass is narrated by the author Hadley Freeman and she tells of the time when after her grandmother died she was looking through her closet when she discovered a dusty shoebox tucked out of the way. The contents of this shoebox would take Hadley away from what she was planning and onto a journey of discovery. Inside the dusty shoebox were photos and documents from a time passed, it was as if a quest was being given to Hadley to piece together the secrets of the past and this is exactly what she set about and this was now going to form the best part of a decade to piece together the contents of this dusty shoebox.

Hadley Freeman is so eloquent in the way she brings the family story together as well as playing detective in piecing together the family secrets of the early 20th Century that tells of a Jewish family in Poland through the horrors of what was to follow and follows the brothers from Poland to France and the years of poverty. Freeman tells the story of the three sons and a daughter who born into a poor family decided after WWI to move from Poland to France and settled into one of the poor districts of Paris. A change of name from the family name of ‘Glas’ to ‘Glass’ As the years passed the three brothers found their calling.

Despite changing their name they were of course still Jewish and as WWII started they realised the danger they faced as the Nazi’s marched across Europe they lived in fear as they were not going to be protected by the French government. As the war approached it was decided that the brother’s sister Sala was to be sent to America for safety if Sala had stayed in Paris the chance of being caught and sent to one of concentration camps to real. Now the brother’s faced the reality of trying to survive in an environment of anti-Semitic brutality and murder.

Hadley’s grandmother Sala entered an unhappy marriage were she had two sons. We learn of Sala’s love of Paris and how she missed her family dearly. Listening to Hadley Freeman tell the story of her families past is nothing short of a remarkable story of human endurance and sheer bravery and the wanting to survive. It is also a testament of the authors painstaking research. This is her families story in her own words and one I felt privileged to hear. On the audible narration there is an interview with Hadley Freeman were she talks about the themes of her book House of Glass as well as some of the extraordinary events.I cannot recommend House of Glass highly enough.

Audio book length: 10 Hours, 14 Minutes.   (Audible) 

Audible has a free 30 day trial period and £7.99 a month after the trial period ends. 

House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth Century Jewish Family by Hadley Freeman (audio Book) Narrated by Hadley Freeman was published by Fourth Estate and was published on 5th March 2020 and is available as an audio book via Audible and also as a hardback book through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.




The Christmas Chronicles – Nigel Slater


The Christmas Chronicles – Nigel Slater

I never have had the opportunity to review a book by a food writer. Today is a real first as I am a huge fan of Nigel Slater’s writing from his monthly columns in the Observer to some of the previous books. The Christmas Chronicles (Fourth Estate) was released in October 2017 and I never had the chance to review until this year. So to coincide with the launch of The Christmas Chronicles: A Podcast. I thought I would read along with the podcasts.

Nigel Slater favourite season is Winter and here in The Christmas Chronicles Nigel takes us on a winter journey from 1st November through to 2nd February (Candlemas Day) It is a glorious winter fest that covers Bonfire Night to the build up to Christmas and beyond. But this is just much more than talking about food. Here in Nigel’s words and sumptuous photographs are personal memories of Christmas times of years gone by and the aroma of Christmas trees and fireside stories. If like me, you love Christmas and the childhood memories of watching your mum bake and cook in preparation for the big day then this is the perfect book for you.


Written in a diary format Nigel takes you day by day as Christmas approaches with wonderful winter food ideas and some ideas for drink. A rich book of 455 pages packed full of 100 recipes. The start just gets the reader in the mood for midwinter. There is talk of advent calendars and mistletoe. This is a book to come home from a winter walk light the fire and the candles and pour yourself a long drink and curl up and read. I just really enjoy Nigel Slater’s writing style. He comes across as if he is talking to just you in a quiet and someone who just loves not just cooking but his garden and winter walks and crackling open fires. Nigel also talks about going to Norway and selecting the Christmas Tree for Trafalgar Square

The Christmas Chronicles is just a beautifully produced hardback book that would make a perfect gift for anyone who loves the winter months and reading about good food. I found that I could not leave this book and so it travelled with me on my journey’s. Don’t forget to download the podcasts that accompany the book. Highly recommended.

 464 Pages

#TheChristmasChronicles  @NigelSlater  @4thEstateBooks 

The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater was published by Fourth Estate and was published on 19th October 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.



Birds. Art. Life. Death by Kyo Maclear


Birds Art Life Death: A Field Guide to the Small and Significant by Kyo Maclear

This is an intricate and delicate memoir that is in fact more than just a memoir this is poetic and allows the reader the peace and freedom of nature’s cure. Birds. Art. Life. Death. by Kyo Maclear is not just a book about birds it is about how nature helped during a difficult period in Kyo’s life.


Kyo Maclear was born in London and the family emigrated to Canada when she was four-years-old. When her father suffered two strokes she tells of suffering from “anticipatory grief” she felt that she needed something out of her life of waiting for the telephone calls from the hospital something different. That something different is actually all around us every day. That is wild birds. For Maclear she had heard of a musician who gained the love of photographing wild birds in and around Toronto.

After contacting “the musician” in the hope of a bird walk what happened next is a book called Birds. Art. Life. Death. A book that covers not just the initial bird walk with “the musician” but a book covering every month of the year they watching and discovering birds. This is a book that is the purest form of nature’s cure a meditation as the reader is invited along with Maclear as she talks about not just the peace she finds in watching and discovering urban birds but openly discusses her parents, her past, the books she enjoyed through her life and almost anything and everything that she wanted to bring out into the open. I loved the way she uses words to describe certain birds they discover through the year. It is unique and at times made me smile. Being a keen birder through my life I have found times when I have done something similar.

Do not expect a rip roaring memoir but a book that moves along at a constant slow pace as it should do but it is so beautifully presented and Maclear’s prose is something to be cherished. The book is interspersed with drawings and small images of birds. So many topics are covered in 256 pages looking back I found it incredible to think that Kyo Maclear managed to achieve this.

If you are struggling with the current world news and need some of nature’s cure. I would happily recommend you pick up a copy and join Kyo and “the musician” and discover the peace that you will find in discovering some of the wild urban birds.

Thank you to Fourth Estate for the advanced review copy.

Birds. Art. Life. Death. by Kyo Maclear is published by Fourth Estate and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Raptor: A Journey Through Birds – James Macdonald Lockhart


Raptor: A Journey Through Birds by James Macdonald Lockhart


The Last Word Review


A journey that takes in the length and breadth of the UK to discover the fifteen different birds of prey in all their glory and their landscapes. Within the pages of Raptor: A Journey Through Birds is an adventure as well as a discovery. A journey of discovery that opens with chapter one in the Orkney with the Hen Harrier and ends with the Sparrowhawk in Devon.

For someone like me who has spent a lifetime studying our birdlife in the British Isles and like James Macdonald Lockhart I have travelled the roads and moors and mountains in search of birds of prey in natural environment and fortunate to have seen all fifteen as James has. The one aspect of his writing is just how modest he comes across as he talks about his travels and locations.

Like any keen naturalist they may have a special favourite species and I was keen to read the chapters on the Golden Eagle and the Goshawk I would be very interested to know which is his favourite bird of prey after reading the chapter on the Goshawk I got to thinking this was it. There are a number of books that inspired the author as he set about writing Raptor: A Journey Through Birds. Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk was one of them so it is not difficult to see why this is not just a labour of love as it transcends even that.



As a natural history book this is one that will be appreciated over time and one I am delighted to add to my large library of books on the subject. As you read each chapter whether it is about the haunting Hen Harriers that are horrendously persecuted to the very edge of extinction in the Britain to the humble Kestrel as seen by many hunting and hovering over a fields. His descriptions of each species is written with such precision it is as if you are there with James hiding in the hedgerow or on the moors watching each species.

Added to this incredible insight is that he uses the 19-centrury Scottish naturalist William MacGillivray north – south journey more or less in his footsteps, he uses the analogies of MacGillivray rather a lot through the book some may see this as a distraction but I thought this made the journey more interesting especially if you are just getting to know the natural history of our birds of prey.

This is not just an ornithological book but also acts as a travelogue and another aspect of this book is that it is not one you have to read like a novel, this is one book you can actually drop in and out of, something I deliberately set about as I read through it, in no way does this detract from the book in any way, in fact it made the journey through birds all the more interesting. And for me with nearly 40 years of watching and studying birds I learned a lot from it. The real beauty of this book is that every chapter is dedicated to each of the birds of prey and the writing makes them literally fly off the page.

Raptor: A Journey Through Birds by James Macdonald Lockhart was published on 11 February by Fourth Estate and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.