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

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  11,872 ratings  ·  1,698 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 2010)
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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...more
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...more
Cheryl
Suppose you inherited a collection of Japanese miniatures that have been in your family for a century. What would you do with a treasure of 264 exquisitely carved wood and ivory nutsukes that had been Ephrussi owned for five generations?

Edmund de Waal began THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES: A FAMILY'S CENTURY OF ART AND LOSS with, "I realize how much I care about how this hard and soft, losable object has survived." And with the permanence of the netsukes will come the story of de Waal's ancestors and...more
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...more
Peter Clothier

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;...more
Cynthia
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...more
·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...more
Shauna
'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...more
Andy
Jul 04, 2011 Andy rated it 1 of 5 stars 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...more
Filip
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...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...more
Kathy Turner
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...more
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....more
Jonfaith
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...more
Gail
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...more
Bruce
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 ev...more
Acacia
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 occasiona...more
Paul
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...more
Elaine
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, but especially decorative objects and architecture are infused with his extraordinary visual and tactile sense.
I don’t use the word “extraordinary” lightly. From its origins in the shtetl of Berdishev (where the Ukraine meets Poland – not far from the ancestral home of...more
Fionnuala
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 thos...more
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 re...more
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 hi...more
David
I started off being so jealous of de Waal's fabulous family that I wasn't going to like his book. But the story is great, and I'm such a sucker for rich people with glam friends. Charles Ephrussi is in Proust and Renoir, was friends with Monet, Degas, Oscar Wilde. Viktor and Emmy in Vienna had a few less A-list celebrity chums, but were hugely rich and met Emperors and Archdukes. Daughter Elisabeth was the first woman to graduate from the University of Vienna and pen-friended Rilke. What the fam...more
Vivian Valvano
I read this for my library book review group. It was great. Edmund de Waal is a descendant of the (once) fabulously wealthy Ephrussis family, a Jewish family who made a Rothshcild-like fortune in banking. Originating in Odessa, they were integral parts of Paris society in the nineteenth century and Viennese society up to the Nazi takeover of Austria. Avid art appreciation and art collecting accompanies their financial prowess. The book is a superb history, as gleaned and researched by the cerami...more
Kittaroo
Mi sono imbattuta in questo libro la scorsa estate. Lo vedo in libreria, lo prendo in mano, leggo le note di copertina, lo trovo interessante, ma non lo compro. Ho un mare di libri in coda, devo partire per Londra, dove mi attendono altri libri da acquistare, quindi rinuncio.
Si parte per l'Inghilterra.
Al British Museum vado a dare un'occhiata alle sale dedicate al Giappone, che sono tra le mie preferite di tutta l'esposizione, e noto, in un angolo, in realtà in un micro corridoio di fronte agli...more
Jack
A sensational study of the author's family, one of the richest European Jewish families, on par with the Rothschilds. They hail from Odessa, but reign in the salons of Paris and Vienna - aesthetes, bankers, collectors, taste-makers. One of the authors relatives collected 264 miniature Japanese carved figures, netsuke, which are carefully passed from one generation to the next.

The history of this collection of remarkable miniatures provides a framework for examining the family itself, from their...more
Kurt
This book becomes something fascinating and enthralling in its last hundred pages, and I'm thankful to have read it. Unfortunately, the first 230 pages or so were too frustrating for me to heartily recommend it to the world at large.

The book is, for the most part, a family history, told through the device of a massive collection of netsuke, small Japanese carvings. De Waal inherits this treasure, and he sets off on a quest to trace their history and to make sense of his own family history along...more
Marla
The Hare with Amber Eyes is one of my favourite books of all time. It is beautifully written and grabs the reader and takes them on a fabulous ride through a family's history as it reflects world events writ small. Basically, Edmund de Waal, a ceramicist, recounts the story of his family (the Ephrussi), who had been a very wealthy European Jewish banking dynasty. The book covers the rise and fall of the Ephrussi, through a collection of netsuke, Japanese miniature carvings, that were passed down...more
Amy

carved of wood or ivory, most were the size of a walnut
A Hidden Inheritance

Antiques are often more valuable when their provenance can be determined, and the more details regarding ownership and travel, the better. Thus, the extensive history of the tiny netsuke described in this memoir makes them essentially priceless. Purchased in Paris in the 1870’s, the travels of these tiny figurines reveal a much bigger and more important story than one could imagine. In fact, the general history of WWII...more
Marc  A.
This is a beautiful book. However, I must warn that it is not for those who scorn aesthetics, connoisseurship, erudition and the like as elitist. Mr. de Waal, professionally a maker of fine art porcelains, is himself many of these things and, importantly, his book is a memoir of his two year effort to recreate and reconnect with the details of 100 years in the life of his once fabulously wealthy and refined family. As a fulcrum he uses the history of an amazing collection of exquisite Japanese n...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 hist...more
More about Edmund de Waal...
The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance 1st [Paperback] The Pot Book 20th Century Ceramics St. Ives Artists: Bernard Leach Timeless Beauty: Traditional Japanese Folk Art

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“With languages, you can move from one social situation to another. With languages, you are at home anywhere.” 7 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?” 5 likes
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