Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4
"Other things in the world are white, but for me porcelain comes first."
A handful of clay from a Chinese hillside carries a promise: that mixed with the right materials, it might survive the fire of the kiln and fuse into porcelain - translucent, luminous, white.
Acclaimed writer and potter Edmund de Waal sets out on a quest - a journey that begins in the dusty city of Jingdezhen in China and travels on to Venice, Versailles, Dublin, Dresden, the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina and the hills of Cornwall to tell the history of porcelain.
Along the way he meets the witnesses to its creation - those who were inspired or made rich or heartsick by it and the many whose livelihoods, minds and bodies were broken by this obsession. It spans a thousand years and reaches into some of the most tragic moments of recent times.
In these intimate and compelling encounters with the people and landscapes who made porcelain, Edmund de Waal enriches his understanding of this rare material, the 'white gold' he has worked with for decades.
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Tempo of speech too high for spirit of book
The book essentially consists of a collage of different bits and pieces Edmund de Waal has gathered while searching for the origins of porcellain in different places. I imagine in the written form these bits are set apart by paragraphs and possibly dashes, asterisks... In the audiobook, no such pause between the bits happens. It makes it harder to follow, but specifically harder to enjoy, as there is no space whatsoever to linger with a thought, not even between chapters. It feels like a race, absolutely not fitting for the content.