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The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance [Kindle Edition]

Edmund de Waal
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (525 customer reviews)

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Book Description



264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them bigger than a matchbox: Edmund de Waal was entranced when he first encountered the collection in his great uncle Iggie's Tokyo apartment. When he later inherited the 'netsuke', they unlocked a story far larger and more dramatic than he could ever have imagined.

From a burgeoning empire in Odessa to fin de siecle Paris, from occupied Vienna to Tokyo, Edmund de Waal traces the netsuke's journey through generations of his remarkable family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century.

'You have in your hands a masterpiece' Frances Wilson, Sunday Times

'The most brilliant book I've read for years... A rich tale of the pleasure and pains of what it is to be human' Bettany Hughes, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year

'A complex and beautiful book' Diana Athill

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"You have in your hands a masterpiece" (Frances Wilson Sunday Times)

"The book not only of the year, but of the decade... A quite enchanting book, to be kept and reread by as many generations as it describes" (Michael Howard TLS)

"Elegant. Modest. Tragic. Homeric." (Stephen Frears Guardian, Books of the Year)

"The most brilliant book I've read for years... A rich tale of the pleasure and pains of what it is to be human" (Bettany Hughes Daily Telegraph Books of the Year)

"A complex and beautiful book" (Diana Athill Literary Review)


"A family memoir written with a grace and modesty that almost belie the sweep of its contents: Proust, Rilke, Japanese art, the rue de Monceau, Vienna during the Second World War. The most enchanting history lesson imaginable." --"The New Yorker"

"An extraordinary history...A wondrous book, as lustrous and exquisitely crafted as the netsuke at its heart." --"The" Christian Science Monitor""

"A lovely, gripping book." --"The Wall Street Journal"

"Enthralling . . . [de Waal's] essayistic exploration of his family's past pointedly avoids any sentimentality . . . "The Hare with Amber Eyes "belongs on the same shelf with Vladimir Nabokov's "Speak, Memory."" --Michael Dirda, "The Washington Post Book World""This is a book Sebald would have loved." --"The Irish Times"

"At one level [Edmund de Waal] writes in vivid detail of how the fortunes were used to establish the Ephrussis' lavish lives and high positions in Paris and Vienna society. And, as Jews, of their vulnerability: the P

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More About the Author

Edmund de Waal describes himself as a 'potter who writes'. His porcelain has been displayed in many museum collections around the world and he has recently made a huge installation for the dome of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Edmund was apprenticed as a potter, studied in Japan, and read English Literature at Cambridge University. 'The Hare with Amber Eyes', a journey through the history of a family in objects, is his most personal book.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
336 of 346 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An artist 's relationship with ancient artefacts 26 Nov. 2010
By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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528 of 546 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembrance of Times Past 24 Jun. 2010
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb book 6 Dec. 2012
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Scutable
I enjoy biographical historical stuff like this. It takes a theme and follows it through a dynasty.
Published 15 hours ago by Snazgul
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance and Weakness
The great great great grandson of a wealthy Jewish family tells their story. It begins in the tenements of Odessa in 1800, then the boulevards of Paris, and Vienna, and finally... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Philippe Bieler
4.0 out of 5 stars ANNA
Interesting...but surely the heroine should be Anna. Only the author seems to even notice her and yet she was the person who at great risk to herself 'saved' the netsuke for the... Read more
Published 8 days ago by Horace
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very well written !!!
Published 9 days ago by C.v.F.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wondewrful book
A wonderful story
Published 24 days ago by Margaret L
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value and condition
As advertised. Good value and condition. Prompt delivery.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs P A Owen
2.0 out of 5 stars ... gave up on half way through found it quite boring!
Strange autobiography which I gave up on half way through found it quite boring!
Published 1 month ago by Pippa Cronin
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Very disappointing.
Published 1 month ago by MML
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me.
Just couldn't 'get into' it. Passed it on.
Published 1 month ago by Irene from Dorset
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful book, very nostalgic. Very well written, loved every page
Published 1 month ago by Rosalind Guise
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