House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family (Hardback) Hadley Freeman


I stood up to shut the closet door and that’s when I spotted the shoebox right at the back, behind a pile of leather handbags … surely I thought it would contain another pair of slightly battered kitten heel sandals.

So I sat on the floor, pulled it out and opened it. I did not find shoes. Instead it was filled with secrets my grandmother had managed to keep all her life and some years beyond.

When Hadley Freeman found a shoebox filled with her French 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 her grandmother, Sala, and her three siblings, Henri, Jacques and Alex Glass. The search takes Hadley from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island and to Aushwitz.

Hadley had only really known that her grandmother had met her American grandfather through her brother Alex in Paris, and that she travelled to America to marry him in the late 1930s. But by piecing together letters, photos and an unpublished memoir, Hadley is able to thrillingly recount the full story of all the Glass siblings – Alex’s past as a fashion couturier and friend of Dior and Chagall, trusting and brave Jacques, a fierce patriot for his adopted country, the brilliant Henri who hid out in place after place in occupied Paris – and about each of their bids for survival during the Second World War. She discovers her great uncles’ extraordinary acts of courage in Vichy France alongside her grandmother’s equally heroic but more private form of female self-sacrifice.

Addressing themes of assimilation, identity, and home this powerful story of the past explores issues that are deeply relevant today. A moving memoir following the journey of the Glass siblings throughout the course of the twentieth-century, House of Glass is a thrilling account of love, loss, family and belonging.

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