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House of Glass: The story and secrets of a twentieth-century Jewish family

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  1,732 ratings  ·  193 reviews
A writer investigates her family’s secret history, uncovering a story that spans a century, two World Wars, and three generations.

Hadley Freeman knew her grandmother Sara lived in France just as Hitler started to gain power, but rarely did anyone in her family talk about it. Long after her grandmother’s death, she found a shoebox tucked in the closet containing photographs
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Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 5th 2020 by Fourth Estate
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Average rating 4.46  · 
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 ·  1,732 ratings  ·  193 reviews


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Vicky "phenkos"
I know Hadley Freeman from her writing for the Guardian and read her column regularly, so when I found out that she has written a book on the story and secrets of a 20th-century Jewish family I got a copy as soon as one became available in my local library.

It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that the book has impacted me no end. I just loved how Freeman treated the subject of writing about her family in a way that's relatable, meticulously researched, lively and without glossing over any emba
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Dem
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2, recommended
What an amazing story. The author takes us along as she researches her family history.
A beautifully written personal history that is intriguing, extremely well researched and an entertaining read. So glad I ordered a hard copy of this one as it has numerous photos places throughout the book that really added to the enjoyment of the read. It's certainly one to place on my real life book shelf.

I love family history stories and can identify with the author about the intrigue and excitement of disc
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Kathleen
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once there lived four children in Chrzanow, a small town in of the Austro-Hungarian empire not far from Kraków. The four Glahs siblings headed west following the pogroms against Jews in eastern Europe, changed their names and became Parisians. Jehuda Henoch became Jules Henri Glass, married a woman with roots from his homeland, invented the Omniphot microfilming machine and became a successful businessman. Jakob became Jacques, and when the Germans approached Paris, he joined a Foreign Legion-as ...more
Janilyn Kocher
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adore books that involve searching out family history and putting family puzzles together, piece by piece. It's an extraordinary read about a Polish family who fled to France and what they did to survive the ravages of WWII. THe author does have a tendency to pontificate a bit, but the writing is solid and the history is far reaching. I loved all of the family photographs included. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary copy in exchange for my review. ...more
Jill Meyer
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We’ve had Holocaust memoirs since 1945, and they’ve gone from being written primarily by survivors, passing through the years to being written by children of survivors, then to grandchildren of survivors. If “1st Generation” wrote to both alert the world about their experiences and to provide warnings of what could come, then I think “2nd Generation” wrote to try to understand their parents and what oftentimes made them act the way they did as parents. “3rd Gen” seem to want to understand those ...more
D
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shelf
Fantastic true story. Well written, never boring or repetitive.
Ruben Vermeeren
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
If you like family histories I can surely recommend this one. A captivating and fascinating story, following the four siblings of a Jewish family that fled Poland after the First World War to Paris. As they all try to make a living and integrate in France, the Nazis come to power in Germany and everything their lives are upended once again. The personal histories of these great-aunts and -uncles of the authors will stay with me for a long time. I was a little bit less impressed by the historical ...more
Hannah James
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely swallowed this book up. I even went back and read certain chapters because I was so moved by them. For me, it gave a really unique, readable insight into the loss and persecution Jews have faced in the 20th century. It is utterly heartbreaking and Freeman summarises it all from a personal perspective that allows to grasp how bad things were.

I couldn’t believe the beginning of the story compared to the end... how much things changed for so many in that lifetime. The stories of fashi
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Stephen Goldenberg
I’ve never been a big fan of Hadley Freeman’s Guardian column and I told myself I must stop reading so many books about the Second World War and the Holocaust, so I’m not sure how I ended up reading this book. However, I’m glad I did because it’s an entertaining and well researched read. It also proves that, however many similar stories come out of the Jewish experience, each one is still unique.
In this case, it’s the experiences of the Glass family in France that is most interesting, especially
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Hermien
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly involving history of the writer's family based on material left by her paternal grandmother and written with the help of other family members and a lot of research. A fascinating family and history. ...more
Charlotte
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book will stay with me for so many reasons. I gobbled up the writing and found the stories of each Glass sibling fascinating. There were so many interesting and harrowing turns and much insightful commentary - on the place of women in 1930s society and the sense of betrayal the family felt from their chosen home of France. Post war the world of Parisian art and fashion that Freeman writes about had me dreaming of the film Midnight in Paris.
Cindy H.
I have tremendous respect for author Hadley Freeman. It’s clear she spent years researching her family history as well as an in depth study of World History. My complaint is that this book sometimes focused on inconsequential material and felt unnecessarily shallow. While there was a really fascinating story here, it was often overshadowed by Freeman’s own agenda. MoreMehThanYeah #BorrowNotBuy

Regina Tapoohi
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did not really like this book. Gave it 4 stars because it is quite well written and tells the story of an interesting family. My problem with the book is that I didn’t like the fact that the author kept pushing her views on politics, and modern day Judaism etc. Its supposed to be a memoir of her family and not of her prejudices. Frankly I didn’t like her. Also it was a bit superficial with a number of historical inaccuracies, including spellings. Maybe I should go down to three stars.
Rachel Hagan
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An unbelievably captivating book on holocaust survival, fashion, history, family and secrets.
Helen
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this very much. It's a personal history of a Jewish family, starting from a point of little original knowledge of the details of the lives of four siblings (Hadley Freeman's grandmother and her brothers) and uncovering their story from the pogroms of Eastern Europe to Paris. While her grandmother escaped (reluctantly) to the U.S., the three brothers stayed in France, and two of them survived the war, one in hiding in Paris throughout and the other having a series of adventures includin ...more
Gerard Murphy
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely superb - a fascinating view of one family in the 20th Century. A skilful linking of the personal to the global. An amazing tale of resilience and hope -- add in links to Picasso and Christian Dior and this creates a fascinating story.
Cannot recommend it highly enough --- like Tara Westover's Educated this is a memoir which will stand the test of time as it shines a light on universal themes - nationalism - racism - endurance of the human spirit - love - family relationships ----Just d
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Renae
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best line, a quote from her uncle Alex’s memoirs, “Take the time to look at a beautiful painting. Don’t be afraid, just enter the painting, let it embrace you, like music. Life is worth the trouble of fighting death.” Pg. 293 House of Glass.

It took me a while to embrace the real life characters in this book. But once I did, I was hooked and rapidly read the last 2/3 of the book. You will not be disappointed!
Mike
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolutely superb book and I couldn't put it down. It's a deeply personal family memoir, but it's also a timely history of the Jewish experience of the 20th century. ...more
Laura Spira
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am normally put off by books that come with glowing endorsements from a panoply of the famous but all the praise with which the book cover is plastered is fully deserved: this is a very impressive book.

Hadley Freeman's family members are fascinating characters and their stories well worth telling but this is more than the usual memoir of a Jewish family moving from the shtetl to worldly success. She manages the difficult feat of locating the narrative within the geographical and chronological
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Vera
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommending “houseofGlass” by @HadleyFreeman ... historically correct memoir of a European Jewish family , deep in poverty and running from the historical horrific xenophobic pogroms of the Russian , Polish and German anti Semitic rhetoric ! An excellent read, one that will question human nature to continually make the same dark rhetoric xenophobic mindset!
Why humans can’t learn from history!
JacquiWine
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this thoroughly absorbing memoir by the journalist Hadley Freeman, a book that combines the personal and the political in an emotionally involving way. Ostensibly, House of Glass tells the story of Freeman’s paternal grandmother, Sala, and her family, a narrative that spans the whole of the 20th century – the product of a decade’s worth of meticulous and illuminating research on the part of the author. And yet, it is also a thoughtful meditation on the challenges of being Jewish during t ...more
Sarah Madani
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book on the suggestion of my lecturer, Nadya Masidlover, who told me that it would help me how to tackle my long-form journalism piece on an obscure historical experience of a few members of my maternal family (I found the task a little difficult to accomplish owing to the lack of resources and a language barrier).
I do not read a lot of non-fiction so I had no expectations when I began reading this book. I have always been fascinated about the survival stories of the World Wars
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Zella Kate
Oh this was such a devastating book. One I can already tell I will be thinking about for a long time.

Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman profiles her paternal grandmother Sala Glass and her family, Polish Jews who'd immigrated to Paris and embraced French culture in the 1920s. They changed their names (from Jakob to Jacques, for instance) and, in various capacities, became involved in the French fashion scene, as designers, furriers, and illustrators. The Glass family was doing well.

But then th
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Heather
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came up on several of the "must read this summer" lists. When I see those lists, I just order every book on the list from my library. This was the first to arrive.

This book tells the real life saga of the Glass siblings. It literally spans the entire 20th century because the first sibling was born in 1901 and the last surviving sibling died in 1999.

What a timely book for the times we are living in. This family's struggle living in Europe seemed very close to the problems plaguing the U
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Amie
A hidden shoebox leads a granddaughter on a family history research project and this book is the final product.

Typically family history stories aren't very interesting to me, but the Glass family was so extraordinary. The things they endured and the futures they made for themselves throughout it all. The sacrifices some made and the guilt/shame that some carried with them for their entire lives.

So many beautiful and powerful stories have come out of the darkest time in our world's history, and
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Karen
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this non-fiction book! It is a well-researched and takes us along on the author's uncovering of her family secrets that began with her grandmother's hidden box of treasures found tucked away in a closet after her grandmother's death. This was a quick read for me which is saying lots for a person who prefers fiction.

Each European Jewish families experience during WWII is unique. I loved learning about her grandmother, Sala Glass (Glahs), and her siblings. Immigrants have enco
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Eric
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the best books I have ever read. It is deep, complex, engrossing and intimate. So many things are in here: Jewishness, assimilation, family dynamics, the immigrant story, twentieth-century events, racism, fashion, science. I cannot imagine how long Hadley Freeman worked on this but it was worth it. ...more
Rosanna
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What does it mean to become closer to a grandparent after they have died? Hadley Freeman thoughtfully investigates the twists of her family tree through the 20th century and provides invaluable sociohistorical context about the Jewish experience. This memoir balances poetic exposition and journalistic rigger. She paints a robust picture of complicated people and gives us a window into her ancestor’s lives and how they live in her.
Chloe
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t often accompany a rating with a review but this memoir was so compelling, raw and beautifully written that I simply could not put it down. I learned so much about the history of anti-semitism through reading this book. It is incredibly well-researched. Definitely a book I will read again over time.
Gin
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Family secrets & survival—the Glass (Glahs) Family

Hadley Freeman’s book shows us how humans endure, choose their paths when possible, and live complicated lives based on personality and circumstances. That her father’s family mostly survived shtetl life, immigration to Paris & WW II, by whatever means they could is a testament. As she says, life choices were complicated, decisions were gray, family didn’t get along. Jews dealt with persecution, assimilation, deceit and antisemitism. Family secr
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GFOP Readers: House of Glass by Hadley Freeman 1 46 Apr 15, 2020 07:11AM  

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Hadley Freeman (born 1978) is a columnist and writer for The Guardian, who also contributes to the UK version of Vogue. She was born in New York to Jewish parents, and attended Oxford University. Her first book, The Meaning of Sunglasses, was published in 2008.

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