The rise and fall of the Sassoon family, who, at their height, traded in opium, tea, silk and jewels, is charted in delectable detail in The Sassoons ... Think Succession with yarmulkes. Brothers turn against one another, heirs are anointed and replaced, and devotion to the family business — even after a vicious split — and name, 'an intangible but priceless asset,' is paramount. But what could be salacious catnip for a Kitty Kelley is treated here with evenhanded seriousness. The author’s work is methodical, deeply researched and presented with considered care for both the mundane and the marvelous ... As engaging as Sassoon renders the intricacies of business and religion — two things his subjects almost never take lightly — the book is at its best when the family’s supercharged ambitions take center stage ... In the interests of structure, the author highlights a handful of family members in each generation. This is generally effective, but there are supporting characters...on whom I could have read a full book ... Rags-to-riches stories may all be the same, but it’s the way in which a fortune is lost that’s truly compelling. Sassoon’s detailed account of the decentralization of family power and the proliferation of descendants interested in spending but not making money is well paced and supremely satisfying ... Joseph Sassoon’s book isn’t just a marvelous yarn, it’s an Ottoman Our Crowd that gives his family its due.
A revelatory rise-and-fall narrative of a secretive clan who pursued wealth but mostly shunned fame and power ... Joseph Sassoon has written a marvelous epitaph to a monumental family, makers of several worlds and keepers of none.
An exhaustive tome ... I am not entirely persuaded by this tale of bourgeois betrayal. It’s a familiar trope and one as lazy as the character flaw it indicts. For one thing, it seriously underestimates aristocratic inventiveness ... Sassoon is drawn to neat moral narratives, which come at the expense of economic explanations ... All the same, the tale of bons vivants makes for riveting storytelling, if not terribly sound business history. Readers will take away a great deal of British and Asian modern history from Sassoon’s globetrotting account.
[A] scholarly and wide-ranging corporate and family history, which deftly charts their exploitation of the British Empire, before the sticky embrace of the English aristocracy suffocated their commercial ambition ... Sassoon...moves between underplayed nostalgia and a clinical account of the family’s business demise.
The Sassoon family tree is complicated, and keeping characters straight throughout the narrative can be daunting, particularly since the family repeated names constantly. Luckily, the author helpfully provides a detailed genealogy, along with a bibliography and illustrations.
Sassoon relays in stunning detail the rise of the Sassoons ... Despite being a distant relative to his titular subject, Sassoon maintains a historian’s impartiality ... A meticulously detailed account of the rise and fall of a mercantile dynasty that will appeal to casual history buffs and academics alike.
Grand if somewhat plodding ... Though dense, the narrative is enlivened by portraits of illustrious family members including Farha Sassoon, who successfully ran the Bombay headquarters of the business after her husband’s death in 1894, and WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon. The result is an impressive deep dive into a family that bridged East and West as they built—and lost—an empire.