by Katharine Weber
Crown, $24.00, 280 pages
In The Memory of All That novelist Katherine Weber brings her keen insight and sense of storytelling to bear on her own family history. The book is billed as an account of Weber’s grandmother’s affair with George Gershwin, which it is, however, it is also a deeply personal story of the author trying to make sense of her own history and heritage. To that end the first third of the book focuses on Weber’s parent’s relationship, and her father’s inexplicable personality and his many infidelities. The last two thirds of the book recount Kay Swift’s life, from her first marriage through her affair with Gershwin, as well as her two subsequent marriages.
Weber uses, and in some cases discounts, published accounts to supplement and understand the stories of her family. Weber writes beautifully, and it is obvious to the reader that the book is deeply personal and a labor of love. The narrative is not necessarily chronological or linear, and it contains frequent insertions in the first person, so a reader looking for a purely biographical account of the lives of Kay Swift or George Gershwin may want to look elsewhere, however, a reader who would like to get a sense of what these people were like as people, in their private lives, could hardly do better.