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The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  43,898 ratings  ·  3,219 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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Sarah I'm reading it for book club, and I was more interested in the idea of it than the actual book. I'm having a hard time keeping up any sort of interest…moreI'm reading it for book club, and I was more interested in the idea of it than the actual book. I'm having a hard time keeping up any sort of interest in the level of minututae the author is going into. Hope it picks up.(less)
Anne Anna, Emmy's maid, was able to save them while she was forced under the Nazi's to help pack up the Ephrussi family possessions. She hid them in her ma…moreAnna, Emmy's maid, was able to save them while she was forced under the Nazi's to help pack up the Ephrussi family possessions. She hid them in her mattress and then after the war, when Elizabeth (Emmy's oldest daughter) was able to return to Vienna, Anna gave them back to her and Elizabeth took them to England. Elizabeth gave them to Iggie, her brother who took them to Japan when he started working there.(less)

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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
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
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
Peter Clothier
Oct 18, 2011 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;
Feb 22, 2012 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
Jun 25, 2013 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
Apr 10, 2011 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
Aug 05, 2013 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
Kathy Turner
Dec 14, 2011 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.

Elyse  Walters
Dec 14, 2014 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
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The hare with Amber Eyes is biography and is a wonderful story of 264 Japanese wood and ivory carvings and the unlocking of a story that spans from Paris to Vienna and to Japan as the journey of the netsuke unfolds and that of The prominent and wealthy Jewish Ephrussi Family . I loved the slow build up to the story and the research that went into creating this book. I found the Vienna Ephrussi Family facinating and the story of how the netsuke survived throuhgout the second world war. I loved th ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very difficult for me to rate this book. I found a plagiarism (sentence) of George D. Painter's biography of Marcel Proust in de Waal's book, which had me wondering how many other plagiarisms there might be. There is also mention of Peter Altenberg having his mail sent to Café Griensteidl, which is wrong. It was Café Central. This might sound like nitpicking on my part, but when I read a non-fiction book, I want to be able to trust the facts. Also, I wasn't too keen on the literary style of the ...more
May 07, 2016 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
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
Sep 23, 2010 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
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

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
'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
This book is Edmund De Waal's stubbornly pursued search for the history of a branch of his own family, namely the Jewish-Ukrainian Ephrussi. The starting point for his quest is the collection of 264 small Japanese objects that he inherited from a great-uncle. They are ‘netsukes’, small figures made from the most diverse materials (wood, ivory, amber, etc) which - as befits Japanese art tradition - express a brief moment in the life of those figures. For De Waal it is mainly the material aspect, ...more
Jul 29, 2011 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
Nov 29, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Just followed an online reading about Netsuke and now really looking forward to picking this up as a non-fiction read in 2021
I came across The Hare with Amber Eyes in a list of books about Austria. I suppose you could call it that if you stretch facts a little. But the focus of the book is on the author's privileged, clueless, boring family. The wealthy Ephrussi family originally came from Russia and settled all over Europe. This particular branch follows the exploits of the family settled in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century.

The book is supposed to be about the journey of the netsuke (Japanese figurines) that E
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 25, 2013 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
Feb 08, 2011 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
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 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
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This was a fascinating and heartbreaking story. The author is inspired to take a deep look into his family’s history after seeing the netsuke collection in his great-uncle’s house in Japan. Acquired in 19th century France, they are later transferred to Vienna as a wedding gift. The author’s extremely wealthy Jewish family is targeted by the Nazi’s in WWII and most of the family fortune is lost. Except for the netsuke, which are bravely saved by the family maid and returned to the family after th ...more
Al Bità
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The edition I read was loaned to me by my friend Wayne to whom it had been gifted as a Christmas present. It is the handsomely produced Illustrated Edition by Chatto and Windus.

I dearly wanted to like this work, particularly after all the glowing reviews and its international popularity, but ultimately I was unable to find the sweet-spot that would bring it all together. I did not dislike the work; but I did not like it either. Trying to work out why has not been an easy task. There is no doubt
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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

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“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?” 24 likes
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