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On Sunset

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In the tradition of The Hare with Amber Eyes and Running in the Family, a memoir of the author's upbringing by her grandparents in a fading mansion above Sunset Boulevard -- a childhood at once privileged and unusual, filled with the mementos and echoes of their impossibly exotic and peripatetic lives. Kathryn Harrison always understood that her family was beyond eccentric In the tradition of The Hare with Amber Eyes and Running in the Family, a memoir of the author's upbringing by her grandparents in a fading mansion above Sunset Boulevard -- a childhood at once privileged and unusual, filled with the mementos and echoes of their impossibly exotic and peripatetic lives. Kathryn Harrison always understood that her family was beyond eccentric -- they'd breached the bounds of the unconventional. She was largely raised by her grandparents in an outsized Tudor confection of a house on the periphery of Bel Air, which she thought of as "Sunset," her kingdom of the imagination, inhabited by the past and its numberless artifacts. True wandering Jews, her grandparents had arrived in Los Angeles in the forties after dramatic, globetrotting lives. Harry Jacobs had been a fur trapper in Alaska, a soldier in the trenches of the Great War, a traveling salesman in a Model T. Margaret Sassoon had lived a privileged life as a member of a Jewish merchant family in Shanghai, turning down offers of marriage from Russian princes exiled by the Revolution. Kathryn Harrison grew up in an almost mythical realm of their letters and artifacts and stories -- until declining finances forced to sell the house on Sunset in 1971, and night fell fast. On Sunset seeks to recover that childhood, that place, those lives -- and does so with piercing poignancy.


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In the tradition of The Hare with Amber Eyes and Running in the Family, a memoir of the author's upbringing by her grandparents in a fading mansion above Sunset Boulevard -- a childhood at once privileged and unusual, filled with the mementos and echoes of their impossibly exotic and peripatetic lives. Kathryn Harrison always understood that her family was beyond eccentric In the tradition of The Hare with Amber Eyes and Running in the Family, a memoir of the author's upbringing by her grandparents in a fading mansion above Sunset Boulevard -- a childhood at once privileged and unusual, filled with the mementos and echoes of their impossibly exotic and peripatetic lives. Kathryn Harrison always understood that her family was beyond eccentric -- they'd breached the bounds of the unconventional. She was largely raised by her grandparents in an outsized Tudor confection of a house on the periphery of Bel Air, which she thought of as "Sunset," her kingdom of the imagination, inhabited by the past and its numberless artifacts. True wandering Jews, her grandparents had arrived in Los Angeles in the forties after dramatic, globetrotting lives. Harry Jacobs had been a fur trapper in Alaska, a soldier in the trenches of the Great War, a traveling salesman in a Model T. Margaret Sassoon had lived a privileged life as a member of a Jewish merchant family in Shanghai, turning down offers of marriage from Russian princes exiled by the Revolution. Kathryn Harrison grew up in an almost mythical realm of their letters and artifacts and stories -- until declining finances forced to sell the house on Sunset in 1971, and night fell fast. On Sunset seeks to recover that childhood, that place, those lives -- and does so with piercing poignancy.

30 review for On Sunset

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tanya Marquardt

    I devoured this book - it was such a pleasure to read about Harrison's childhood and loved the way she went back and forth between the lives of her grandmother and grandfather, whose lives traversed across histories and continents to meet in LA and eventually raise Harrison. We see Kathryn as a child, wondering at her grandparent's lives the way one might wonder at fairy tales. Pictures of their lives and their families are sprinkled throughout the book, and this helps to place them in relations I devoured this book - it was such a pleasure to read about Harrison's childhood and loved the way she went back and forth between the lives of her grandmother and grandfather, whose lives traversed across histories and continents to meet in LA and eventually raise Harrison. We see Kathryn as a child, wondering at her grandparent's lives the way one might wonder at fairy tales. Pictures of their lives and their families are sprinkled throughout the book, and this helps to place them in relationship to historical events as well as to class and sexuality. A snapshot of a bygone time, in all its pleasures and adventures as well as the repression and erasure of culture that came with British colonization. We keep seeing the young Kathryn trying to locate herself in relationship to the stories she hears, stories that live in her and create the writer that she becomes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Liz Pardey

    I just absorbed this book -- every word is perfect Harrison tells us about her childhood with her grandparents. Her grandmother was a Sassoon and grew up in pretty much endless wealth in Shanghai; that wealth is dwindling quickly but this isn't a story of impending poverty It is filled with the goodness and wisdom of her grandfather, her grandmother's fascinating life, and Harrison who was raised as her grandmother was raised -- early to bed, none of the fads of a child in 1970 although they liv I just absorbed this book -- every word is perfect Harrison tells us about her childhood with her grandparents. Her grandmother was a Sassoon and grew up in pretty much endless wealth in Shanghai; that wealth is dwindling quickly but this isn't a story of impending poverty It is filled with the goodness and wisdom of her grandfather, her grandmother's fascinating life, and Harrison who was raised as her grandmother was raised -- early to bed, none of the fads of a child in 1970 although they live at 11247 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles. Harrison's love for and admiration of her grandparents is parable. A lot of priceless stories too, like doing her grandmother's driving test for her or the chair in the avocado tree. And Harrison knows just where and when to stop with this perfect blend of memoir and history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    On SunsetA Memoirby Kathryn HarrisonDoubleday BooksDoubledayBiographies & MemoirsPub Date 02 Oct 2018I am reviewing a coy of On Sunset through Doubleday and Netgalley:Kathryn Harrison always knew that her family was eccentric, her family breached the bounds of the unconventional. Kathryn was raised largely by her grandparents in an outsized Tudor style home on the periphery of Bel-Air, which she thought of as ”Sunset” the kingdom that existed in her imagination., inhabited by the past and it 
On Sunset
A Memoir
by Kathryn Harrison
Doubleday Books
Doubleday
Biographies & Memoirs
Pub Date 02 Oct 2018
I am reviewing a coy of On Sunset through Doubleday and Netgalley:
Kathryn Harrison always knew that her family was eccentric, her family breached the bounds of the unconventional. Kathryn was raised largely by her grandparents in an outsized Tudor style home on the periphery of Bel-Air, which she thought of as ”Sunset” the kingdom that existed in her imagination., inhabited by the past and it's artifacts.
 Kathryn’s grandparents were true wandering Jews! Her grandparents had arrived in Los Angeles in the forties after leading globetrotting lives. Her Grandfather Harry Jacobs has been a fur trapper in Alaska, a soldier in the trenches during the Great War. As well as traveling salesman in a Model T. Her grandmother Margaret Sassoon has lived a life of privilege as a member of a Jewish Merchant family in Shanghai even turning down offers to marry Russian Princes who were exiled by the revolution. The family was supposed to sale the house due to failing finances in 1971, this book seeks to recover Kathryn's childhood in a way. I give On Sunset five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This was poignant and lovely...a nostalgic portrayal of an unconventional family and upbringing, compassionately told by Kathryn Harrison. Thank you Goodreads giveaways for the ARC.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Brave, raw, interesting, engaging, & honest as always.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    I won a copy in a Goodreads giveaway; this did not influence my review. I initially found On Sunset difficult to follow; Harrison meanders and swiftly shifts topics and time periods. While she never develops a true organization for the book, I eventually found a rhythm in reading it. It is a strange book that is sort of a hybrid memoir/biography as much of the book is told from the perspective of hearing stories from her grandparents as a child in their house on Sunset Boulevard (thus the title). I won a copy in a Goodreads giveaway; this did not influence my review. I initially found On Sunset difficult to follow; Harrison meanders and swiftly shifts topics and time periods. While she never develops a true organization for the book, I eventually found a rhythm in reading it. It is a strange book that is sort of a hybrid memoir/biography as much of the book is told from the perspective of hearing stories from her grandparents as a child in their house on Sunset Boulevard (thus the title). The synopsis on the book jacket led me to expect more stories about the house itself and her family's financial difficulties. While these topics are interspersed throughout, I found the book primarily one of family lore. I was particularly enthralled with the photographs, some of which are over one hundred years old. Harrison shares some fascinating stories of her grandparents' lives but there is little overlap in their shared histories as a married couple or as parents. Typically Harrison alternates between stories of her grandmother's and grandfather's early lives before they met one another, though occasionally Harrison veers into stories of earlier ancestors or of the places her grandparents once resided - I found the latter topics a bit dry. The big disappointment of the book is that it ends when she and her grandparents are forced to sell their house on Sunset Boulevard; I was left wondering if her grandparents lived to see her to adulthood. An epilogue would have provided a more well-rounded ending.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    For me this was an unusual memoir, I had the book and audio, but spent the majority of the time listening, it was like a wild stream of consciousness. Usually memoirs are linear and straightforward, I went to school here, married, had job a, blah blah blah, but this was all over the map like a tumbling river. Easy to get lost in and obviously she is a free and fluid thinker. Enjoyed my arm chair travels back in time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ren

    3.5 Kathryn Harrison could describe a pile of dirt and make it sound like the most fascinating thing in the world. This one wandered a bit without ever reaching any clear conclusion or making a point but it's almost forgivable for her descriptions of atmospheres, of how things must have felt to someone or how she remembers that they felt to her. I liked her writing entirely from her childhood perspective, something very different from her other memoirs.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lori Tobias

    I've always really liked her work, but this one didn't engage as others have. It's well written, for sure. I just didn't care all that much.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Murray Heltzer

    Poorly written memoir. Does not make you fully understand the make up of her family. Only touches on her relationship with her mother

  11. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    3.5

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This was unexpectedly lovely. If you liked this, try The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me by Sofia Zinovieff.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    An absolute delight!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lynne Bundy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  16. 5 out of 5

    deni j. lorieau

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve Landstreet

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Lounsbury

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karyn Kirke

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The writing is littered with details and jumps around so it is hard to follow. I received an ARC from NetGalley.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Linda Holmes

  23. 5 out of 5

    Claire

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joy Oaks

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet F. King

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sally

  29. 4 out of 5

    KarnagesMistress

    I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways on Friday, October 5, 2018.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Miles

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