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By piecing together letters, photos and an unpublished memoir, Hadley brings to life the full story of the Glass siblings for the first time: Alex’s past as a fashion couturier and friend of Dior and Chagall,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.
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.
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)
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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.