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The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance Paperback – 27 Jan 2011
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"...as full of beauty and whimsy as a netsuke from the hands of a master carver"--The Economist
"...this book is impossible to put down. You have in your hands a masterpiece."--Francis Wilson, The Sunday Times
"An intensely personal meditation on art, history and family, told in prose as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves"--London Review of Books
"It is a rich tale of the pleasure and pains of what it is to be human"--Bettany Hughes, Daily Telegraph
"An exquisitely described search for a lost family and a lost time"--Colm Toibin, The Irish Times
"Both the story he uncovers and the objects he describes are fascinating and startling"--AS Byatt, Financial Times
"Unexpectedly combines a micro craft-form with macro history to great effect"--Julian Barnes, The Guardian
"A book of astonishing originality"--Evening Standard
"An extraordinary and touching journey with a backdrop glittering with images from Proust and Zola and Klimt"--Margaret Drabble, Times Literary Supplement
"Every page of Edmund de Waal’s The Hare with Amber Eyes gave me pleasure"--Rachel Polansky, Times Literary Supplement
The history of a family through 264 objects - set against a turbulent century - from an acclaimed writer and potterSee 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.
This book is a family history told through objects and materials, with name dropping thrown in. The main characters remain quite two-dimensional, though their history is varied and should be more interesting.
The problem lies in the disjointed writing style and poor editing. For example in one paragraph, the first sentence tells us there are to be two paintings of 'mother' and 'aunt', but the next says they are of the daughters, with no explanation. I often had to read a sentence twice, then resorted to fast reading.
Once I forgot the style, the section on the Anschluss was very moving and informative. As for the netsuke and the hare, they were only light cement to bond the story together - their prehistory was rarely mentioned and so much more could have been made of them.
I'm glad I read it all, but it could have been so much more satisfying with a heavy edit.
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.
The author uses obscure words where more common terminology would be more evocative.
If you must read this, read it on a kindle so that you can use the dictionary and skip pages quickly.
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