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The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  23,361 Ratings  ·  2,476 Reviews

The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.

The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became

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Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published August 31st 2009)
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(showing 1-30)
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Mark
After the first few pages I was wondering whether this wa going to be one I would have to wade through as a noble act of bookclub fidelity. However, its like a walk up a mountain where you are straining up a hill, panting and feeling its your duty and then suddenly you brow the hill and there opening out before you is this great vista and you get a second wind and off you go at a cracking pace. This is exactly what happened with this really clever concept.

Edmund de Waal, a potter, traces the hi
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Kalliope
I would have enjoyed this book more had I been less familiar with some of the topics tackled during its first half. Namely, the Paris and Vienna of the 1870-1914 period with Impressionism, Japonisme, Proust, circles of Jewish finance and art patrons, Dreyfus affair…and the parallel Building of the Ringstrasse, the Sezession, Psychoanalysis, etc. All this is a bit of a déjà vu (or déjà lu) for me.

But Edmund de Waal easily escapes the clichés when he relies on well-known cultural episodes. As the
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Jan Rice


At first I thought this book was slow, overly preoccupied with art at the expense of narrative, and becalmed. By the end, the author's view-as-artist illumined the narrative and its characters, who are several past generations of his family.

As all the summaries and reviews say, the generation of his great grandfather were a wealthy Jewish banking and grain exporting dynasty in Paris and Vienna and around Europe, and also art collectors and patrons, but in the next generation the family's financ
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Peter Clothier
Dec 27, 2013 Peter Clothier rated it it was amazing

There are many excellent reasons for reading The Hare with Amber Eyes. Its author, Edmund De Waal, is known to the world as a fine ceramic artist, whose work is widely shown in museums and galleries. He is also an exceptionally fine writer, bringing an artist’s sensibility to this other medium: a meticulous attention to the detail of language, its rhythms and its evocative potential. Read the book for its exhaustive descriptions of interiors, whether bel époque Paris or Wiener Werkstatt Vienna;
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Paul
May 26, 2015 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This was an interesting read and a fascinating account of the journey of a group of netsuke through a family history of about 140 years and several generations. The journey moves from Paris to Vienna, across Europe through Nazism and to Japan.
De Waal's family history is fascinating and I was particularly interested in the link to Proust and Great Great Uncle Charles being the model for Swann. The descriptions of furnishings and the decorative aspect of the grand residences are sumptuous. De Waal
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Filip
Jan 08, 2014 Filip rated it it was ok
The concept of tracing the history of a rich Jewish bankers family through the vicissitudes of a collection of Japanese miniature sculptures, is original and interesting. The beginning of the book is a bit slow, but it then comes to life with fascinating descriptions of the Ephrussi in Paris during Impressionism or in Vienna during the first part of the 20th century, ending with dramatic events surrounding the Austrian Anschluss into the German Reich.
And yet it is hard to feel much sympathy eith
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Andy
Jan 08, 2014 Andy rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Oh my good Lord, what did I do that you put me through the torture of reading that book?


Did I like it? No.

It is a story of the authors family in a blindly tunnel vision view of how everyone was out to get his Jewish family as they rose to the pinnacle of society in the Austrian empire, survived more or less as well as anyone else did in the 2nd world war and on to his gay uncles exploits in Japan.

With such wonderful chapter starters as "It wasn't just Renoir who hated the Jews..." (note no justi
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Elaine
Sep 06, 2016 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I started out giving Hare with Amber Eyes four stars, but as it settled in, I decided to up it to five stars. This is a very special book – de Waal approaches his extraordinary family history as the artist he is, art, paintings, and especially decorative objects and architecture are all infused with his extraordinary visual and tactile sense.

I don’t use the word “extraordinary” lightly. From the story's beginnings in the shtetl of Berdishev (where the Ukraine meets Poland – not far from the an
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Cynthia
Dec 27, 2013 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful blending of history, biography with a sprinkling of art. The Ephrussi were a prominent Jewish family who originated from Odessa Russia. Part of the family emigrated to Paris and another part to Vienna. Along the way they collected beautiful things including a collection of Netsuke which are miniature decorative figures used to hold a money case in traditional Japanese dress.

The netsuke were originally collected by De Waal’s great great uncle Charles and were one of the few tr
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Kathy Turner
Dec 27, 2013 Kathy Turner rated it it was amazing
I have just finished The hare with amber eyes. I thought it was one of the most stunning books I'd ever read.

The language is wonderful. The stories in France where Renoir and Proust just pop in as part of the 'scene' - oh what a feel for Impressionist France - I particularly loved finding out that Charles is that figure in the top hat in the background of Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party- somehow such a small intimate detail of Charles' life has enlivened that painting for me for ever.


htt
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Shauna
Jul 29, 2013 Shauna rated it really liked it
'How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious. There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten?'

The author claims, toward the end of this book, to 'no longer know if this book is about my family, or memory, or myself, or is still a book about
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·Karen·
A jewelled mirage of a book.

The story of a love affair, or rather of several.

Can you fall in love with objects? Do they hum and glow with secrets of past times? The key to the Japanese netsuke passed to Edmund de Waal from his great-uncle Iggy is the sensuous pleasure they afford: smooth, small coolness, heavy in the hand for their size. Tactile. Not designed to be gazed at from a respectful distance, but to be picked up and played with. Intimate. Hidden.

Edmund de Waal follows the trace of th
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Fionnuala
Sep 01, 2016 Fionnuala rated it it was amazing
I began this a couple of days ago and I'm entranced. The Hare with Amber Eyes is the history of a collection of miniature 18th Japanese figurines called netsuki and the biography of the various owners of the collection. Already, the first half of the book is proving to be art history of the best kind, accessible and beautifully written, the kind which makes the reader pause and reflect, the kind which urges the reader to find out more about the period, the kind which inspires her to pick up ...more
Chrissie
NO SPOILERS!!!

ETA: I changed this to two stars. For most of this book I struggled to keep turning the pages. I think it is wrong to judge an entire book by the last 100 pages. Back to two stars, which reflects my feeling for the majority of the book.
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On completion: So how can I complain so much about a book and then give it 3 stars? (See ETA!) The answer is simple, this is how I felt when I finished the book. I have been discussing this book with Amy
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Jean-Paul Werner Walshaw-Sauter
description

Netsuke (根付) are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function (the two Japanese characters ne + tsuke mean "root" and "to attach"). Traditional Japanese garments — robes called kosode and kimono — had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.

Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes' sashes (
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Elyse
Mar 06, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing
There is so many 'details' in this family memoir written by an illustrious author/artist.

The title of this book is a 'netsuke'. It is one of the many such objects, (small valuable Japanese miniatures), that had semi-practical use in Japan when men wore Kimonos. They became objects of interests after 1854 when Japan was open to the west. A large quantity was shipped to Europe and purchased by collectors. Later other emerging impressionist artist caught on.

The focus of this family (pained by ant
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Sherwood Smith
Beautifully evocative and elegiac, a history of a family. You know it will not end well, as this family is Jewish and the history begins a few generations before WW II, but de Waal is determined to bring the family to life through his descriptions of their homes, their idiosyncrasies, and above all their passion for art.

De Waal traveled to all the places this family had lived, and did his best to walk in the spaces they walked, look out the windows they did, and endeavor to imagine their lives.
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Ian Young
Never before have I encountered the word vitrine so often in such a short period, and I hope that I don’t come across it again for a long time. I suppose that’s what I deserve for straying away from the world of fiction. However, The Hare with the Amber Eyes is a book which has won many accolades and is loved by many – I suspect, therefore, that the problem lies somewhere within me rather than with the book. It is by no means a badly written or uninteresting story. Edmund de Waal explores the ...more
Jonfaith
Jul 31, 2013 Jonfaith rated it really liked it
This is a delicate work detailing rather amazing figurines in some of recent history's more nefarious climates. The settings include Paris of the Dreyfus Affair and Vienna of the early 20th Century, culminating in the terrible Anschluss of 1938.
De Waal, himself an artist, is peering backward into time. He explores his family's success, constantly aware of the menace which surrounds such. Pieces of tiny sculptures lie at the heart of this quest. The pieces are Japanese in origin. The author explo
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Gail
May 16, 2011 Gail rated it really liked it
If you love history and art—and the melding of the two—that I think you will find it impossible not to be taken with Edmund de Waal's "The Hare with Amber Eyes."

To be fair, this is high-brow storytelling. If "The DaVinci Code" is the McDonald's equivalent of a book that incorporates these two themes, then "Amber Eyes" is the four-course French meal complete with palette-cleansing sorbet.

The book is a biography of de Waal's inherited collection of more than 200 pieces of Japanese netsuke, small c
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Steve
May 17, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
My, that was exquisite. What a unique and gorgeous and informative and intriguing and ... special piece of work.

A memoir? (No doubt, the author - a remarkable individual in his own right - embarks on a quest and drags the reader along...) A family history? (Not just any family.... this is the rise and fall of a great (Jewish) dynasty....) A slice of Holocaust history? (and the reminder that, yes, it could have been much worse... but, still, the loss.... and, again, the loss) A deep dive into an
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Teresa
Dec 04, 2016 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Uma requintada pesquisa em busca de uma família e de um tempo perdidos. A partir do momento em que abrimos o livro entramos na velha Europa, integralmente recriada."
Colm Tóibín

Descobri A Lebre de Olhos de Âmbar numa lista intitulada "22 livros que são diamantes para o cérebro", na qual constam 9 que já tinha lido, em que apenas 3 não considero jóias preciosas porque... enfim, não posso gostar de tudo...

Edmund de Waal é um prestigiado oleiro descendente da família Ephrussi (*). Ao herdar uma col
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Bruce
Dec 27, 2013 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating account of an extended family’s collection of netsuke, small Japanese carved objects, as told by a contemporary descendent of the original collector in Paris. The book is extraordinarily well written and is a mirror of times and customs, of social mores and values, of artistic trends and movements. Throughout the work the author weaves themes of art and collecting with social changes. It is a story about immediacy, sensuality, and beauty as well as anguish cased by world ...more
Sandra
Jan 18, 2015 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saghe-familiari
E’ finito in bellezza questo romanzo (se posso definirlo così) iniziato in bellezza e poi persosi nella parte centrale. Ero entusiasta dallo sfolgorante inizio di una storia di oggetti minuscoli e leggeri, i netsuke, creazioni di abili e pazienti artigiani giapponesi, strettamente collegata alla storia degli Ephrussi, famiglia ebrea originaria di Odessa e sparsa per il mondo, da Parigi a Vienna a Tokyo e a Londra; ero affascinata dal connubio tra storia, arte e letteratura che emerge dalla ...more
Acacia
Apr 28, 2012 Acacia rated it it was amazing
My father was one of those people who always found things on the ground. Maybe it came from being over 6' tall, but he was always looking at where he was walking. He'd find money in parking lots but mostly what he found were rocks. When he would go hunting with my brother, he would find little stones that he would pick up and bring home. They were never anything special, no gems or geological artifacts, just stones that felt good in the hand. He'd slip them into his pocket, reaching in ...more
Lemar
Dec 06, 2015 Lemar rated it it was amazing
The Hare With Amber Eyes is the beautifully wrought, poetic work of a caretaker. Edmund De Waal, an artist, uses his empathy with objects to reanimate a world of lost time. He employs his tender yet uncompromising eye and tactile senses in letting both lovely Japanese netsuke (tiny, detailed sculpture), and otherwise dry and dusty ledgers and lists tell a fascinating story.

De Waal has undertaken the task of tracing the history of 264 netsuke he inherited from his great-uncle Iggie. He lets the j
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S.
May 27, 2014 S. rated it liked it
Beginning this book was like being upgraded to business class on an airplane. I'd just finished a so-so book, and suddenly I opened this to find lush prose, historical scope and a great vocabulary. Thank you.

The reader can tell how close this story is to the writer’s heart - tracing his paternal genealogy through the turbulence of Europe in the 1900s, in which his ancestors gained and lost a fortune. De Waal choses to track a collection of netsuke, small Japanese ceramics, from the time his grea
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Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
For a while last year it seemed like every book commentator and their dog had been reading Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes. Honestly you couldn't open an end-of-year review without being bombarded by recommendations to read it. My paperback copy blares out on the front cover: 'You have in your hands a masterpiece'. Brazen perhaps, but it has the benefit of being true in this case. Three breathless sittings - three rather than one because I made myself draw out the pleasure - and I'm ...more
Piperitapitta
Dec 30, 2014 Piperitapitta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wunderkammer

Con passo da flâneur, come Edmund De Waal scrive a un certo punto del suo libro, l'autore si mette sulle tracce della collezione dei 264 netsuke (come ho avuto modo di imparare durante la lettura, piccole sculture giapponesi di avorio o di legno, non più grandi di una scatola di fiammiferi, raffiguranti divinità, personaggi di ogni tipo, animali, piante) ricevuti in eredità dallo zio Iggie.
Ci ammonisce subito, De Waal, e confesso che dopo poche pagine era stato proprio questo il mio
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Didi
Apr 14, 2014 Didi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Hare with Amber Eyes was the sixth book read in my book club this school year. When I voted for it I thought the book was going to be about something completely different. On the onset I was a bit put off and disappointed. I really wanted to know more about netsuke. Netsuke are small Japanese figurines made of wood and ivory that were used to close the obi on Japanese traditional garments. They represented animals, people, and mythical characters. I believed the story was about netsuke, but ...more
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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 ...more
More about Edmund de Waal...

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“With languages, you can move from one social situation to another. With languages, you are at home anywhere.” 18 likes
“How objects are handed on is all about story-telling. I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious. There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten?” 16 likes
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