Book review: The White Road: A Pilgrimage Of Sorts

LONG before he found literary renown through The Hare With Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal was a ceramicist. 

Edmund de Waal

Chatto & Windus, €19.99

Here, he combines both talents with this idiosyncratic history of porcelain.

Retracing its path from China to an enraptured West (and back again), he also recounts his own history with pottery, but this is far more intriguing and less rote than the ‘personal journey’ obligation in much modern non-fiction.

Partly, this is down to him letting it be properly personal; there’s no attempt made to adopt a chummy everyman persona.

Instead, all his foibles and erudition are on display; this is a guide who never lapses into art-historical pieties, but is equally happy to rhapsodise about colour and translucency, or muse sceptically on “passive-aggressive porcelain” or how “all emperors look like Dorothy L Sayers”.

From Saxony, Stoke and Cornwall to the horrors of Dachau and the Cultural Revolution, it’s a fascinating voyage.


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