As Freeman’s previous books have included The Meaning of Sunglasses: A guide to (almost) all things fashionable...and How To Be Awesome: Modern life for modern ladies...this is quite a change of subject matter. Oddly, for much of the time, Freeman’s style does not change all that much from the one used in her previous publications. More oddly, the effect is not crass but joyous, empowering and revealing, even amid the horrors that she confronts ... Her book does not focus on trauma. Instead, the Holocaust is like the sun that Freeman cannot look at in her grandmother: what we see are the beautiful clothes; the glamorous friends; the family legends of escape and bravery; and the amazing resilience (both personal and financial) in the decades after the war ... There is sadness here and righteous anger, but, crucially, Freeman eschews the air of melancholy and fatalism that is so often a feature of depictions of the Jewish beau monde ... She thus avoids one of the clichés of Jewish family history and, in the process, throws light on the success of the Jewish diaspora, both before and after the Second World War. In the end, House of Glass is still a feature on her grandmother’s wardrobe, and it is none the worse for that.
... [Freeman] is an incisive chronicler and historical sleuth ... An affecting and ambitious writer, as well as an exacting historian, Freeman tackles anti-Semitism, Jewish guilt and success...Without her ancestors’ 'extraordinary force of personality,' their bold actions, even those resulting in lasting grief, we wouldn’t be fortunate enough to have Freeman or this exceptional book.
A biographer’s gift, [Alex] later became an art dealer, befriending Picasso and living in a home full of works by Matisse, Manet and Renoir ... His story glitters, but there are other biographical riches. Henri pioneered microfilm — a spy story itself — and spent the war hiding in Paris with his wife Sonia ... Bearing witness is a powerful motive, but Freeman also frames House of Glass as a warning against a backdrop of rising nationalism and anti-semitism across the world ... 'Haunting' is an insufficient description of House of Glass. It lingers, chilling the room ... Yet it’s not a book of ghosts; these people exist in high definition, Freeman catching their foibles, feuds, physical quirks and flashes of heroism. Researched with diligence and written with love, it triggers the same shock of recognition that comes from colourised film ... House of Glass opens the door on to the past, and its light spills sharply across the present.