On Sunset

In this memoir, Kathryn Harrison recounts her privileged, yet eclectic upbringing by her grandparents in a fading mansion above Sunset Boulevard.

Kathryn Harrison

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, 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. (From Penguin Random House)

On Sunset is available in October 2018.


This week - the art of the memoir. What to tell? Who to implicate? And how to deal with the consequences. Eleanor speaks with American memoir writers Vivian Gornick and Kathryn Harrison, and England's Ferdinand Mount. 53:42


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