Advance reader reviews of The Memory of All That by Katharine Weber.

The Memory of All That

George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family's Legacy of Infidelities

By Katharine Weber

The Memory of All That
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2011,
    288 pages.

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There are currently 17 member reviews
for The Memory of All That
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  • Nona F. (Evanston, IL)

    Not as Advertised
    Katherine Weber’s family memoir The Memory of All That is being marketed as a “colorful, insightful, evocative and very funny” portrait of the extraordinary family (the Warburgs) she descends from on her mother’s side. Readers may see its subtitle “George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and my Family’s Legacy of Infidelities” and fall into the same trap I did, thinking that much of the book would discuss Weber’s grandmother Kay Swift and her relationship with George Gershwin. Instead, the first half of the book is a rather bitter evocation of Weber’s relationship with her father Sidney Kaufman. The second half of the book is more in line of what was promised, but I would have liked to have read much more about the many members of the Warburg family (who I had some trouble keeping track of—a family tree diagram would have been helpful)..

    Weber is at her best at the very end of the book where she describes her own relationship with her grandmother. Weber sets out to rehabilitate Kay Swift’s reputation as a musician, and here she succeeds very well in either debunking misinformation passed around among Gershwin biographers or providing fresh insight in Swift’s talent.

    This is a well written book, and at times a very interesting book, but it’s not the book the publishers are touting.
  • Laura P. (Atlanta, GA)

    The Memory of All that
    First the good things: There's nothing more fascinating than a good dish on a totally dysfunctional family, and this story of the extramarital affairs of two generations of a very prominent family certainly fills that bill. The writing is excellent - Weber's description of her father's career as being "at the intersection of making it and making it up" really caught me. On the down side: the combination of a cast of characters so extensive that it should have been presented on a spread sheet and the author's choice to use a reverse chronology for part of the story was terribly confusing. Also many of the characters who were quite prominent in the early to mid 20th century aren't so well-known now and could have been better introduced. I'm not sorry I read the book, but I didn't love it.
  • Frances B. (Virginia Beach, Virginia)

    The Memory of All That
    Never have I read about such a dysfunctional family who, at the same time, has great talent. Many of the names I did not recognize but the Gershwin/Kay Swift affair was quite interesting.
    While the writing is good, I do not plan to recommend it to my book club..
  • Lorna M. (Ukiah, CA)

    The Memory of All That
    I enjoyed the book very much. It was more than simply a memoir of a dysfunctional childhood (there are more than enough books of that genre around now). The connection between the author's grandmother (Kay Swift) and George Gershwin added interest to the family story. Kay Swift was a fascinating, charismatic, and very musically talented woman. As a fan of George Gershwin's music, I found his relationship with her fascinating.
  • Marge V. (Merriam, KS)

    Shudder at her memory of The Memory of All That
    Poor Katharine Weber! Despite her life in an uber-dysfunctional family, she has grown up into a responsible, grounded human being. The "hook" in the book is her grandmother's long love affair with George Gershwin, which is very interesting to read about. Kay Swift Warburg was a gifted composer in her own right but never had true success after having collaborated in some capacity with him on Porgy and Bess and writing Fine and Dandy with her then-husband, James Paul Warburg. Katharine Weber's mother, Andrea's, upbringing did not prepare her for a life of stress and non-privilege with Sidney Kaufman.

    There are interesting historical and family moments in this book. Read further to find them!
  • Lorelee M. (Placentia, CA)

    The Memory of All That
    This book was delightful. It is amazing how many names from 20th century history were connected in some way to this family in the arts, politics, and business ventures. The underlying humor and smooth writing made this easy and enjoyable to read.
    The myriad of characters and extended family was confusing at times (expecially the FBI activities), but well worth the glimpse into the lives of some prominent , creative, intelligent, and most often wealthy people who were thrown together or crossed paths personally and/or professionally.
    I found myself joyfully humming Gershwin tunes for days and being deeply touched by the memories of all the grandmothers who will always hold a special place in our hearts.
    "The heart wants what the heart wants" It is destiny.
  • Virginia P. (Tallahassee, FL)

    The Memory of All That
    Katharine Weber's memories in this small book are of the serial infidelities of her father, Sidney Kaufman, and her grandmother, Kay Swift's affair with George Gershwin. The subtitle of the book suggested that it was more about her grandmother and Gershwin than other infidelities in the family, but the first half of the book was taken up with her father's struggle to be known and his unfaithfulness to her mother. Other than the fact that he was constantly being investigated by the FBI for liberal leanings, it was pretty tedious reading. I don't know why someone wants to write about a parent's infidelity unless it is cathartic to them. The author definitely had issues with her parents and this comes across, loud and clear. The second portion of the book concerned her grandmother, grandfather, James Paul Warburg and George Gershwin. While Gershwin was a marvelous talent and it appeared Swift was also, it was disappointing to learn that they were silly, vain and self-centered. I plan to pass this book on to a friend to get her opinion, but I truly cannot recommend it for anything other than the excellent writing style.
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