James McAuley is the Paris correspondent for the Washington Post and a contributor to the New York Review of Books. He recently received his doctorate in French history at Oxford.
Engrossing...traces the long, vexed relationship of these families with materiality, their faith that they could create something beautiful in an increasingly hostile environment , their attempt to control works of art as they could not control life. -Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times A moving portrait of a glittering, doomed world -The Economist A comprehensive and accessible account of one of the great communal acts of generosity - and then betrayal - in modern history -Nicholas Wroe, The Guardian Ghosts from the pages of Proust and the paintings of Renoir wander through sumptuously appointed salons and galleries, charmed to life by James McAuley in his alluring and disturbing history The House of Fragile Things . . .The depths of French anti-Semitism is the stunning subject that Mr. McAuley lays bare . . . [He] tells this haunting saga in eloquent detail. As French anti-Semitism rises once again today, the effect is nothing less than chilling. -Diane Cole, Wall Street Journal Provides a new narrative that is at once rigorous and sensitive [and] endows these houses of fragile things , which are still standing today, with a new solidity and life -Vincent Delieuvin, Art Newspaper This group portrait re-creates the milieu of fin-de-siecle French Jewish dynasties like the Rothschilds and the Camondos through the art collections they amassed . . . McAuley chronicles how many of his central figures were deported by the Vichy government and describes the fate of their collections. A study of 'obsessions with objects' becomes a darker tale. -New Yorker Behind the rococo fantasies and fin de siecle extravagance of Paris's Musee Nissim de Camondo lie engrossing, desperate stories of paintings tainted by blood, wealth blind to danger, collectors controlling their art as they could not control their lives. -Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times Unsettling. . . . As much as McAuley seeks to recover histories effaced by the Holocaust, [he] emphasizes that these histories persist in our present. -Chelsea Haines, Art in America Deeply researched and elegantly written. . . . Astute and perceptive. . . . McAuley's nuanced narrative leaves the reader with a range of villains from which to choose. -Ori Z. Soltes, Washington Post [McAuley] has a tenderness for his subjects framed by a beautiful moral register. His conclusions are chilling. -Helen Elliott, The Monthly (Australia) A well-judged investigation -Julian Barnes, London Review of Books A superior book must convey a message or present ideas. It must contribute to enriching understanding. This work certainly meets these criteria. -Jay Levinson, Jewish Tribune McAuley delicately revives the collections and stories of those the Nazis sought to annihilate. The result is compelling. -Christie's Magazine An enlightening and deeply moving book . . . As hard to put down as an exciting novel. -Harriet Devine, Shiny New Books A riveting and devastating account of a battle between the cultured and sophisticated fin de siecle Parisian art world - mostly but not exclusively Jewish - and the brutal greed of the Nazis, aided by the long-standing antisemitism of their French collaborators. -Anne Sebba, Jewish Quarterly This is the book I have been waiting for. A magisterial account of aspiration and loss. Please read it. -Edmund de Waal 'A haunting and melancholy book that brings to life a wealthy but beleaguered Jewish milieu that was determined to demonstrate its loyalty to France.'-Philip Nord, author of France 1940: Defending the Republic 'A remarkable book. I've finished reading with a sense of wonder at the unknown world its author recreates for us, and with shock at how senselessly that world was destroyed.'-Alice Kaplan, author of Looking for The Stranger: Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic 'Fascinating, sensitive and heartbreaking, deeply researched and elegantly written, filled with flamboyant dynasties of art collectors, McAuley guides us between the chic glamourous sophistication of the Paris art world and the murderous greed of the Nazis and their collaborators.'-Simon Sebag Montefiore Beautifully written, astoundingly researched and penetrating in its gaze into an irrecoverable world, both Parisian, European and Jewish, James McAuley vividly revives a past now on the brink of escaping living memory. The House of Fragile Things is a book about art, France, the Holocaust and what it can mean to be a Jew, that will haunt you long after you have read it. -Ben Judah, author of This is London