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The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  20,019 Ratings  ·  2,281 Reviews


264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them bigger than a matchbox: Edmund de Waal was entranced when he first encountered the collection in his great uncle Iggie's Tokyo apartment. When he later inherited the 'netsuke', they unlocked a story far larger and more dramatic than he could ever have ima
Paperback, 354 pages
Published January 27th 2011 by Vintage (first published August 31st 2009)
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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
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
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
May 26, 2015 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Peter Clothier
Oct 18, 2011 Peter Clothier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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;
Apr 30, 2012 Filip rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2010 Cynthia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 04, 2011 Andy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
'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
Kathy Turner
Jun 14, 2012 Kathy Turner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

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
Nov 27, 2015 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 its origins in the shtetl of Berdishev (where the Ukraine meets Poland – not far from the ancestral hom

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.
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
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.
Jul 31, 2013 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Young
Jul 29, 2011 Ian Young rated it liked it
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
Mar 26, 2011 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 22, 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 ev ...more
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 Parig ...more
Jan 25, 2015 Fionnuala rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-related, essays
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
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
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
Apr 28, 2012 Acacia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2014 Piperitapitta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Apr 14, 2014 Didi rated it liked it
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
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
Oct 13, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dark-orange-band
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
Jan 29, 2014 Kittaroo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Vivian Valvano
Aug 06, 2011 Vivian Valvano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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...

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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?” 14 likes
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