On Sunset

“Stunning… This is Kathryn Harrison in top form.” –Augusten Burroughs

In the tradition of The Hare with Amber Eyes and Running in the Family, a memoir of the author’s upbringing by her grandparents in a fading mansion above Sunset Boulevard — a childhood at once privileged and unusual, filled with the mementos and echoes of their impossibly exotic and peripatetic lives.

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 forties 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 Sunsetseeks to recover that childhood, that place, those lives — and does so with piercing poignancy.

“I regard The Kiss as one of the bravest and finest memoirs ever written. So a memoir from Kathryn Harrison is a Big Deal and her new one, On Sunset, is stunning. Harrison never protects herself as a memoirist, and her vulnerability, intelligence, insight, curiosity, emotional honesty, and breathtaking talent as a writer are just some of the reasons On Sunset is as excellent as it is. This is Kathryn Harrison in top form.”
—Augusten Burroughs

“Transfixing… Fairy-tale fascinating, profoundly revealing of cultural divisions, and brilliantly and wittily told… Harrison’s entrancing look-back casts light on resonant swaths of history.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist 

“Evocative and tender, this delightful memoir pairs the distant past with a safe and sacred time in the author’s young life.”
Publishers Weekly

“Blending family history and mythology, anecdotes and photographs, this book is not simply one woman’s open love letter to two magnificently eccentric grandparents; it is also a testament to the enduring power of memory. A poignant and eloquent memoir.”
Kirkus Reviews