Rated of 5
by Pepper E. (Lawrenceville, NJ) No memory of all that
I received an Early Review copy of this book.
Disclaimer: I did not read the entire book
While not a society/gossip/People Magazine reader, I do love a memoir that tells the childhood of the famous or the infamous. I was brought up with show tunes on the record player and on the radio, so I was attracted to Katherine Swift's memoir because she is almost exactly my age, mid fifties, and expected to have lived a somewhat parallel life.
I was disappointed enough with The Memory of All That that I was not inspired to read the entire book. After several chapters, I still felt I was picking the book up at its midpoint, that I had neglected to read the Preface. I did Google her father for some historical context...I never got a clear picture of the author or her surroundings, although I will accept the blame for not knowing enough about the few celebrities she mentions, I am not well versed in that time period or that culture to be familiar. I think there might have been a little more back-story to let the reader know about the author's family, and a little more context. Sure, her family dynamics were atypical, but that's show biz. Maybe it was because I did not read it cover-to-cover, or maybe it's just me, but the story was just not compelling enough to pique or carry my interest.
Rated of 5
by 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.
Rated of 5
by 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.
Rated of 5
by 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.
Rated of 5
by 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..
Rated of 5
by 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!
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