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On Sunset

A Memoir
Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman
Length: 6 hrs and 39 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Stunning... This is Kathryn Harrison in top form." (Augusten Burroughs)

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 '40s after dramatic, globetrotting lives. Harry Jacobs had been a fur trapper in Alaska, a soldier in the trenches of the Great War, and 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.

©2018 Kathryn Harrison (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A touching and at times jaw-dropping portrait of the maternal grandparents who raised [Harrison]... On Sunset - richly illustrated with photographs and personal documents - adds up to more than just sepia-toned nostalgia for a world on which the sun set long ago… It's an evocative record of unusual lives and loves that - disrupted by war and anti-Semitism - spanned continents and left their mark on subsequent generations.” (Heller McAlpin, The Washington Post)

"I regard The Kiss as one of the bravest and finest memoirs ever written. So a memoir from Kathryn Harrison is a Big Deal and her new one, On Sunset, is stunning. Harrison never protects herself as a memoirist, and her vulnerability, intelligence, insight, curiosity, emotional honesty, and breathtaking talent as a writer are just some of the reasons On Sunset is as excellent as it is. This is Kathryn Harrison in top form." (Augusten Burroughs)

"[On Sunset] is not just memoir, not just family history, not just a meditation on culture and class, but a mystery, too… And this time [Harrison] has written a story - many stories, many characters, and a heroine, too (herself, that is) - to live alongside those by authors who made all of us want more: Dickens, Barrie, C. S. Lewis. And Lewis Carroll, too, who, in this account, is one of her favorites… On Sunset is more than one thing: not simply nostalgic, but tinged with anticipated sorrow and grief. Harrison’s touch is light (she’s a gorgeous writer)… As wise and all-seeing as it turns out to be, [On Sunset] is also a mostly happy story... It will, as with the best, make you laugh and cry. And it will make you remember how it was to be a child." (Dinah Lenney, Los Angeles Review of Books)

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