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

The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
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's review
Aug 07, 12

bookshelves: memoir, history
Read in August, 2012

If this were the only memoir/history/historical novel you read of the period, you might not appreciate its chronicling the fortunes of fabulously wealthy bankers and traders in Paris and Vienna by tracing a legacy of 264 exquisite Japanese netsukes. The Ephrussis are Jewish, so you await the coming tragedy, though anti-semitism shadows all the generations.

De Waal's narrative technique gives a leavening freshness to the narrative. He reconstructs the past and conveys it in the present tense: "And Emmy pulling him to the window at breakfas to show him an autumnal tree outside thedining-room window covered in goldfinshes. And how when he knocked on the window and they flew, the tree was still blazing golden." The author's experiences are related in the past tense: "I washed up after lunch while Iggie had his nap, and I would try to do my kanji homework, filling one chequered paper after another with my jerky efforts."

I loved the connection to Renoir, especially the painting "The Boating Party", which was the subject of an historical novel that I read last year. Actually, the only thing I found lacking is that there is not one photograph of an individual netsuke; I want to see the hare with amber eyes.

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