Polyglot, steeped in art and literature and history, able to throw a pot and turn a sentence with equal skill, endlessly curious and stupendously diligent, aesthetic to his fingertips but also deeply moral, Mr. de Waal brings a lot to the table, and with The White Road he goes all in...The book itself is something vast out of porcelain, an eccentric, ungainly, one-off vessel, and it buckles like crazy. But crazy is the order of the day, so you understand.
A poetic memoir woven with copious amounts of engaging research, the book demonstrates the truism that an unexamined life is not worth living. Self-indulgent? Overlong? Perhaps. But De Waal digs deep into the substance of his life, and what he shares is precious.
[The White Road] is a diffuse and often tortured book, full of clouded narrative lines and vague poetical musings that strain too hard after the momentous...De Waal can tease a lot of atmosphere out of the most unprepossessing archival research...He’s not, however, a natural travel writer, and the many places he visits flicker past without making much of an impression, backdrops to his perpetual agitation.