My sister and I have different taste in most things. When I told her how much I enjoyed reading this book, she told me she couldn't get past the first chapter. She loves plot driven books and this isn't that. I on the other hand prefer atmospheric books with interesting characters, which is precisely what this is.
The author is not an historian and the less compelling parts of the book stem from news paper research and official documents. The book really came alive for me when the author drew from family correspondence and used his artist's eye to describe the objects, homes and daily lives of his relatives. The forces in the world that affect the Efrussi family, like the Dreyfus Affair, the Nazi occupation and World War Two, are dealt with in a serious, but secondary way. The art and intimacies of the family take center stage. This book took me to the salons of 19th century Paris, the palaces and dressing rooms of turn of the century Vienna and expatriate life in Japan. It is strikingly relevant at this moment in history to watch how possessions can fall away for various reasons, and leave memories and family mythologies in their place.