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The Hare with Amber Eyes
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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) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
An utterly irresistible illustrated edition of the No 1 bestselling and prizewinning memoir, with over 120 full-colour images --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product description
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However, it is pretty ponderous in places, losing focus on more than one occasion. It's not always clear whose narrative it is following, and whether the netsuke are supposed to be featuring at all. Occasionally you start to hope that it will become part art history, part historical biography but it fulfils neither option well and at times just lists events and people rather than providing any details.
The most interesting, thought provoking and - indeed - unsettling part to this book is the description of the family history during world war two. But other than that it's very dry and not one to be re-read.
Edmund De Waal is a well known ceramicist, who inherited a collection of Japanese netsuke from his Uncle Ignace and partner Jiro, whom he lived with while studying in Japan in his formative years. Upon receipt of the collection Edmund embarks on a journey to discover their place in his family's history.
The netsuke were bought in 1870's Paris and it was fascinating to read about this branch of the family and their proximity to famous impressionist painters of the time. I kept finding myself looking up paintings on the internet that were mentioned in the story, which bought the whole tale to life for me, and helped to set the scene beautifully.
From Paris the netsuke were given as a wedding gift to a branch of the Family living in Vienna. Again this was a fascinating account of growing anti semitism and Anschluss in Austria.
All in all a very enjoyable read, tracing the rise and fall of a powerful dynasty!
And then the Nazis came.
The author's family was Jewish, by the way.
Reading how his great grandfather and family were treated must be one of the most moving experiences I have had for quite a while. The shocking efficiency of it. The systematic removal of their property, their dignity, all done in such a cold, calculated way. Completely chilling.
I would recommend reading this book just for that. The remainder is a well-research, fond family memoir which is written with great skill. But the Nazis...that part kept me awake at night. Brrr....may we never, ever forget.
I found that it took a bit of 'getting into', but that perseverance was worthwhile. Once hooked, the details were fascinating. I greatly enjoyed the 'multilingual' nature of it - a plenitude of international locales and characters.
This is a history of the writer's family over the last couple of centuries - no ordinary family - and of the journeys upon which he embarked to find out about them. It is thus also an intriguing record of how the world (or parts of it) has changed and is changing. It seems to me that a great many significant ideas are hinted at or touched upon tangentially or 'in passing'. De Waal focusses on what interests him and does not belabour his points. His descriptions of objects - clothes, objets d'art, furniture, architecture - are tactile and vivid. He recounts events objectively, almost dispassionately, allowing the reader to infer the realities behind the surface detail.
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