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The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance Paperback – 2 Aug 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; Reprint edition (2 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312569378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312569372
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.4 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (489 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,363,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

`I don't know how this memoir can be surpassed. The writing is simple and powerful, the craftsman in Mr de Waal (a potter) warms to the beauty of the netsuke' --Country Life

About the Author

Edmund de Waal’s porcelain has been displayed in many museum collections around the world, and he has recently made an installation for the dome of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was apprenticed as a potter, studied in Japan, and studied English at Cambridge. He is Professor of Ceramics at the University of Westminster and lives in London with his family.
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

332 of 343 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Edmund de Waal is a renowned ceramic artist who's work has been exhibited in Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum. He can trace his ancestry back to a wealthy Ukrainian family who made their fortune from grain exporting and later banking, and who had spacious and luxurious homes in Vienna, Tokyo and Paris. When Edmund inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese netsuke carvings from his Uncle Ignace, he felt prompted to investigate their place in the family history. The Hare With Amber Eyes is the result.

The book opens with De Waal studying in Tokyo in 1991 while on a two year scholarship, visiting his Uncle Iggie (Ignace) in his home in Tokyo, which he shares with Jiro, his partner of 41 years. Ignace has a wonderful collection of netsuke which has been in the family since the late 19th century. Three years later, Uncle Iggie dies, and Jiro writes and signs a document bequeathing the netsuke to Edmund once Jiro himself has gone.

When Edmund eventually owns the netsuke he finds himself greatly intrigued by the history of this remarkable collection, and realises that all he really knows are a few anecdotes, which become thinner in the telling. The only answer is to carry out a proper investigation into their story - and off he sets to visit the locations the netsuke have resided in and to investigate those who owned them before.

The Hare with Amber Eyes is a lovely book. I have read similar accounts of family history where too much is assumed, where scenes are guessed at, conversations created where none could possible be recalled, and personalities are elaborated until they are far too larger than life. Edmund de Waal seems to be a very careful writer. He has only written about what he knows and what he can prove from primary sources.
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523 of 541 people found the following review helpful By R. G. Saunders on 24 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a mesmerising many-layered book. The fascinating narrative of the fabulously wealthy Jewish Ephrussi family moves through the decades from commercial Odessa to the Paris of the Impressionists and artistic salons to the brutal destruction of the Anschluss of 1938 in Vienna and a familial diaspora over three continents. Parallel to this, we follow with the author his own emotive journey to reclaim the lives lived in the vanished rooms of his forbears. This he does sensitively and successfully, imagining his way there through archives, letters and contemporary fiction. He visits all the great houses and, in Odessa, tasting the dust of the demolished palace rooms, he rejoices in the survival of the Ephrussi family emblem on a last remaining banister.

Such evocative writing and small discovered detail make this a story we want to follow with him and we find that this is not, after all, a tale of acquisition but of loss. The 264 tiny Japanese carvings (netsuke) bought in the 1870s in Paris are all that now remain of the family possessions. We also come to understand another loss: the Ephrussis no longer felt defined by their Jewish origins: artists and socialites passed through their grand salons. It is shocking to discover that even those who enjoyed their patronage were casually anti-Semitic. It is hard to read the vivid account of the abrupt violence of the Nazis as they took (almost) every precious possession from them, leaving them, in the end, only their Jewishness.

The netsuke are the beginning and ending of the story. Their exquisite detail is emblematic of this beautifully crafted book and its touching story of the individuals through whose hands they passed. One or other of them seems, like a rosary, to accompany the writer in his travels: a constant reminder to keep faith with his past.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sally Walker on 6 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb book of many layers. It is immediately obvious why it won the Costa biography award. The writing is beautiful, intelligent and lyrical.

In essence it is Edmund De Waal's `Who Do You Think You Are?', unveiled around the centre point of two hundred and sixty four netsukes that have been in his family for a nearly one hundred and fifty years.

These netsuke have travelled widely from their place of origin in Japan to Paris, Vienna, Tunbridge Wells, Japan and now London. De Waal tells us about each stage of their journey and the life stories of each of his antecedents and some of their relatives who have been their custodians. The lives of the first of his forefathers abounded in untold wealth, all lost at the beginning of the WW2 and the persecution of the Jews in Austria.

This book is also a histiography telling us of events in Europe in the first and the second world war, and in Japan after its surrender to the Americans in WW2.

It is also a travelogue for Tokyo and Japan.

Interwoven through this biographical and historical study is an account of the netsuke themselves: the fads for them in the 19th and 20th centuries; what they were made from, what their original purpose was; and one of the netsuke artists and the lengths he would go to get his art just right.

I do hope that this is not the one and only book that the author will write because writing this good needs to be continued.

This falls into my must read category.
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