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Mrs. ME Richardson (Belfast United Kingdom)
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The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
by Edmund de Waal
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hare With Amber Eyes, 7 Feb 2011
Edmund de Waal is descended from the Ephrussi family of wealthy Jewish bankers. Started in the early nineteenth century in Odessa their business prospered and expanded to Vienna and Paris. By the nineteen thirties they had amassed a vast fortune in property and valuables which was confiscated by the Nazis in 1938
De Waal inherited a family archive of papers, letters, autobiography,photographs and one of the few recovered treasures, a collection of Japanese netsuke: tiny, matchbox sized, carved ivory, horn and boxwood figures including the eponymous 'hare with amber eyes'.
Over the years de Waal, painstakingly and lovingly, researched the family history, making frequent visits to Paris, Vienna, Odessa and particularly to Tokyo where Great Uncle Iggie, from whom he gleaned much of his information, had settled after the Second World War.
The story is woven around the fortunes of the netsuke collection. It was acquired by the Paris branch of the family in the 1870's. Charles Ephrussi was a connoisseur and collector of art and artefacts, He rubbed shoulders with the literati of the day including Proust and the Goncourts and with artists Renoir and Degas. Proust's character of Swann in 'A la reherche du temps perdu' is thought to be modelled on Charles.
In 1899 the collection was given as a wedding present to a younger cousin in the Vienna branch of the family. In that househld the tiny figures were fondly cherished by the next generation. They were played with and formed the basis for many a bed time story.
Those children, one of them de Waal's grandmother, grew up in Vienna in the first two decades of the twentieth century.They survived the First World War relatively unscathed. Social life went on. A diary records regular visits to the opera in 1916. By the nineteen thirties they had all left home. Their parents remained until the Germans occupied Austria and persecution of its Jews began.
When the house was being dismantled by the Nazis in 1938 a loyal family servant managed to secrete the netsuke, piece by piece and hid them in her mattress. After the war they were restored to the family and were taken by Great Uncle Iggie to Japan from whence they passed eventually to Edmund.
This fascinating story is beautifully written and is an important contribution to the canon of nienteenth and twentieth century social history.


Memories Of A Catholic Girlhood (Vintage Classics)
Memories Of A Catholic Girlhood (Vintage Classics)
by Mary McCarthy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.02

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memories, 13 Jan 2011
I recently had reason to look this book up on Amazon and was astonished to discover that it had only one, very negative, customer review.
I read the book 50 years ago when it was first published and thought it was brilliant. Everything I have heard or read about it since then leads me to believe that my opinion is widely shared and that it has become a classic of its genre.
McCarthy's experiences may not be unique but the way she describes them is.


The Tender Bar: A Memoir
The Tender Bar: A Memoir
by J. R. Moehringer
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tender Bar, 3 Jan 2011
I can't understand why there are no customer reviews for this book. I have tried several times to post a review on Amazon but it has not been accepted.
It is a brilliant book. One of the best memoirs since Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, full of characters reminiscent of Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Damon Runyon's short stories, and written in a unique style.
A true prize winner.


The Olive Tree: A Personal Journey Through Mediterranean Olive Groves
The Olive Tree: A Personal Journey Through Mediterranean Olive Groves
by Carol Drinkwater
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Olive Tree, 19 Dec 2010
I missed this book when it was first published and only discovered it when it's sequel Return to the Olive Farm appeared. I am a great fan of Carol Drinkwater and have read and enjoyed all her other books in this series. She writes well and her books are interesting and easy to read. This volume is no exception. I admire her courage in travelling alone in dangerous places and coping with tricky situations.
She presents a fascinating account of travelling off the beaten track in Spain, North Africa and Italy. Perhaps the 'olive' theme is nearing exhaustion!


The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws
The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws
by Margaret Drabble
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much Jigsaw, 5 Jun 2009
I enjoyed this book up to a point but got slightly bored by too much history of jigsaws and other board games. More memoir and less history would have made a better book.


The Olive Route: A Personal Journey to the Heart of the Mediterranean
The Olive Route: A Personal Journey to the Heart of the Mediterranean
by Carol Drinkwater
Edition: Hardcover

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars more olives!, 27 Jan 2007
I thoroughly enjoyed Carol Drinkwater's 'Olive' series and was delighted to hear of a fourth volume. I was, however, somewhat disappointed. She seems to be carried away by her enthusiam and her prose, in places, borders on the 'purple'. I was constantly irritated by the excessive and sometimes inappropriate use of adjectives and adverbs. Having said that the book provides a fascinating insight into the current situation in those troubled countries surrounding the Mediterranean as seen through the eyes of the local inhabitants. Carol Drinkwater is to be congratulated on her courage in penetrating beyond the tourist route into many dangerous places and for the speed with which she translated her experiences into print.


The Ash Garden
The Ash Garden
by Dennis Bock
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking first novel, 18 May 2003
This review is from: The Ash Garden (Hardcover)
The garden of the title refers to the devastated Hiroshima in August 1945.
Fifty years on, at the annual commemoration ceremony in Columbia University New York, a victim of that disaster confronts one of the perpetrators in the person of a scientist involved in the development of the atom bomb.
On 6th August 1945 young Emiko Amai was playing by the river near her home with her small brother when they saw a large black object falling from the sky. Emiko's parents were killed in the mushrooming cloud of the atomic explosion and her brother died subsequently from his injuries. Emiko herself was badly burned and became, in her own words ' a scarred and disfigured girl of six with only half a face'. Nine years later, she was selected, along with twenty-four other young girls, to travel to the USA for reconstructive surgery. There she remained and little is revealed about her life in the interim until 1995 when she re-emerges, unmarried and childless,with a new face and a successful career as a documentary film maker.
Anton Boll was a German physicist who, in the late ninteen thirties, became disillusioned with the political situation in Germany and with the direction his reasarch team was pursuing. He defected to the USA where he was assimilated into the Manhattan Project working on development of the atomic bomb. At Los Alamos, he aand his colleagues tested the bonb, naively protecting themselves from radiation with suntan lotion. At the end of the war, Anton travelled to Hiroshima to analyse the effects of the atomic fall-out. He was appalled by the carnage and assisted the helpless medical teams to treat casualties.
The lives of these two characters are skilfully interwoven, together with that of Anton's Jewish wife Sophie who escaped from Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war. By a circuituos route, she ended up in a detention camp in Canada from where she was rescued by meeting and marrying Anton. Sophie was afflicted with lupus and bore the typical butterfly facial rash mirroring the disfigurement suffered by Emiko. When her illness progresses she chooses to die of kidney failure when her life could have been prolonged by a kidney transplant.
The main protagionists in the novel are fictitious but several factual characters appear in the supporting cast. Notable among these is Major Thomas Ferebee, bombardier on the twelve man crew of the Enola Gay who flew the fatal mission to deliver the bomb, aware that they were involved in something very special but unaware of the enormity of their deed.
With subtlety and sensitivity, Bock explores the issues of justification, responsibility and guilt, remorse and reparation, ethics, morality and human rights. Questions remain unanswered stimilating the reader to examine his own philosophies.
Written in flashbacks in beautiful, understated prose, this novel deserves to win prizes.


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