Thoughts on Books: The White Road: Journey Into an Obsession

The White Road: Journey Into an Obsession, by Edmund de Waal, London, Chatto & Windus.

“Other things in the world are white but for me porcelain comes first,” Edmund de Waal notes in The White Road. He also states: “White is also my story. From my very first pot.”A potter and a writer, follows the journey and history of porcelain through the centuries in this book.

I picked The White Road up — okay, I clicked on the cover (but that is so much less Romantic) — while doing research for the novel Porselein (Porcelain).* Little did I know what a gem it was that I would soon hold in my hands. It’s one of those Kindle books that I really want a physical copy of in order to really feel the pages, smell the ink, and pass it on for others to read. But I digress.

The history of porcelain turned out to be much more interesting than I had imagined. Of course I knew that porcelain was made in China originally, but the pure obsession that came with it I had no idea of.

The book is divided into seven parts:

  • A prologue: Jingdezhen — Venice — Dublin
  • Jingdezhen
  • Versailles — Dresden
  • Plymouth
  • Ayoree Mountain — Etruria — Cornwall
  • London — Jingdezhen — Dachau
  • London — New York — London
The White Road by Edmund de Waal

Throughout the book we meet people from different walks of life, learn about those in history that not only brought porcelain to the West, but also tried to reproduce it. We meet those who’s obsession with porcelain and the making thereof went too far. Even De Waal’s own obsession with and love for the white clay is shown through the artworks that he makes.

But it’s not just the content of the book that makes it such a thrill to read; it is also De Waal’s superb writing. Through his writing you truly sense that you are right there with him. Of course, the reproduced pages of Père d’Entrecolles’ letters on Chinese porcelain from 1722 was the illustration I most poured over, but there were also sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs that I read and reread simply for the beauty of the words.

I think that, if someone has an interest in global history, travelogues, or even biographies and autobiographies, they will find this volume as intriguing as I did. No wonder it is a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller.

To buy your own copy of The White Road, you can click here for Kindle and here for Kobo. An audiobook is also available on both Audible and Kobo — and I’m really considering getting it as well!(Please note that these are not affiliate links.)

* Porselein will be an Afrikaans novel. 

About Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.

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