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The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss [Kindle Edition]

Edmund de Waal
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: CDN$ 10.99 includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
Sold by: Macmillan CA
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“Enthralling . . . [de Waal’s] essayistic exploration of his family’s past pointedly avoids any sentimentality . . . The Hare with Amber Eyes belongs on the same shelf with Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

“At one level [Edmund de Waal] writes in vivid detail of how the fortunes were used to establish the Ephrussis’ lavish lives and high positions in Paris and Vienna society. And, as Jews, of their vulnerability: the Paris family shaken by turn-of-the century anti-Semitism surging out of the Dreyfus affair; the Vienna branch utterly destroyed in Hitler’s 1937 Anschluss . . . At a deeper level, though, Hare is about something more, just as Marcel Proust’s masterpiece was about something more than the trappings of high society. As with Remembrance of Things Past, it uses the grandeur to light up interior matters: aspirations, passions, their passing; all in a duel, and a duet, of elegy and irony.” —Richard Eder, The Boston Globe

“Absorbing . . . In this book about people who defined themselves by the objects they owned, de Waal demonstrates that human stories are more powerful than even the greatest works of art.” —Adam Kirsch, The New Republic

“Delicately constructed and wonderfully nuanced . . . There are many family memoirs whose stories are as enticing as Edmund de Waal’s. There are few, though, whose raw material has been crafted into quite such an engrossing and exquisitely written book as The Hare with Amber Eyes . . . One of the great triumphs of The Hare with Amber Eyes . . . is not just the assiduous way in which de Waal interrogates his raw evidence—scattered articles and newspaper cuttings, old paintings, forgotten buildings—but the way he summons up different eras so evocatively . . . [De Waal] is, too, as you would expect of a potter, wonderfully tactile in his investigations, interrogating the physical feel of the Ephrussis’ different buildings, touching surfaces, assessing materials. This sensuality transmits itself also to his prose, which is beautiful to read—lithe and precise, crisp and delicate. The result is a memoir of the very first rank, one full of grace, economy, and extraordinary emotion.” —Andrew Holgate, The Barnes & Noble Review

“Remarkable . . . To be handed a story as durable and exquisitely crafted as this is a rare pleasure . . . Like the netsuke themselves, this book is impossible to put down. You have in your hands a masterpiece.” —Frances Wilson, The Sunday Times (London)

“From a hard and vast archival mass of journals, memoirs, newspaper clippings and art-history books, Mr. de Waal has fashioned, stroke by minuscule stroke, a book as fresh with detail as if it had been written from life, and as full of beauty and whimsy as a netsuke from the hands of a master carver. Buy two copies of his book; keep one and give the other to your closest bookish friend.” —The Economist

“What a treat of a book! It projects an iridescent mirage that once was real, a pageant of exquisite fragility, an aesthetic passion somehow surviving the brutalities of history. Mr. de Waal’s nostalgia is tart, tactile, marvelously nuanced.”—Frederic Morton, author of A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888/1889 and The Rothschilds: Portrait of a Dynasty

“A self-questioning, witty, sharply perceptive book . . . The Hare with Amber Eyes is rich in epiphanic moments . . . By writing objects into his family story [de Waal] has achieved something remarkable.” —Tanya Harrod, The Times Literary Supplement

“A beautiful and unusual book . . . [A] unique memoir of [de Waal’s] family . . . De Waal has a mystical ability to so inhabit the long-gone moment as to seem to suspend inexorable history, personal and impersonal . . .  A work that succeeds in several known genres: as family memoir, travel literature (de Waal’s Japan is the nearest thing to being there, and over decades), essays on migration and exile, on cultural misperceptions, and on de Waal's attempt to define his relationship with his own kaolin creations. His book is also a new genre, unnamed and maybe unnameable.” —Veronica Horwell, The Guardian

“Part family memoir, part Proustian confession, subtle, spare and elegant.” —Hilary Spurling, The Independent

“A marvelously absorbing synthesis of art history, detective story and memoir . . . A nimble history of one of the richest European families at the turn of the century . . . Remarkable.” —Kirkus Reviews

Product Description

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 the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.

The netsuke--drunken monks, almost-ripe plums, snarling tigers--were gathered by Charles Ephrussi at the height of the Parisian rage for all things Japanese. Charles had shunned the place set aside for him in the family business to make a study of art, and of beautiful living. An early supporter of the Impressionists, he appears, oddly formal in a top hat, in Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party. Marcel Proust studied Charles closely enough to use him as a model for the aesthete and lover Swann in Remembrance of Things Past.

Charles gave the carvings as a wedding gift to his cousin Viktor in Vienna; his children were allowed to play with one netsuke each while they watched their mother, the Baroness Emmy, dress for ball after ball. Her older daughter grew up to disdain fashionable society. Longing to write, she struck up a correspondence with Rilke, who encouraged her in her poetry.

The Anschluss changed their world beyond recognition. Ephrussi and his cosmopolitan family were imprisoned or scattered, and Hitler's theorist on the "Jewish question" appropriated their magnificent palace on the Ringstrasse. A library of priceless books and a collection of Old Master paintings were confiscated by the Nazis. But the netsuke were smuggled away by a loyal maid, Anna, and hidden in her straw mattress. Years after the war, she would find a way to return them to the family she'd served even in their exile.

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal unfolds the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. Sweeping yet intimate, it is a highly original meditation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By J. Jago
I read it myself, loved it, lived in it and couldn't put it down - so sent it as a birthday present to my 'daughter-out-law in Toronto. Haven't heard yet whether she is as enthralled by it as I was - and still am. But she darn well should be!

I bought my first copy in a a London (UK) book shop offering a 2-for-1. Made my first choice and scanned the rows for my 'bargain'. I spotted The Hare with Amber Eyes and remembered I'd read something about it, couldn't remember the review and short of time, picked it up.

What happenstance! This eloquently written, absorbing and unique family history with its complex relationships combines an eye-opening account of the horrors and dreadful depredations of the Jewish people by the Nazis. But it takes no shortcuts on the structuring of a Jewish family rising from not-quite rags to unimaginable wealth - and the means by which this is achieved.

This is a book written with considerable charm, insight and more than anything else, absolute truth.

I gave my first copy to a friend and now have another - read it and reread it again and again. A masterpiece like no other.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern masterpiece! Dec 5 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
How often does the history of a European dynasty read like a "I couldn't put it down" novel? Exciting, tragic and wise, this chronology takes us along on a voyage of discovery as we learn through the fate of a collection of miniature Japanese antiquities, how fine works of art can be feverishly sought after, then given away; cherished or dismissed; lost for years then re-discovered, understood and valued then trivialized as toys. Running parallel with the fate of these tiny sculptures ("The hare with amber eyes" is one of them) is the fate of the family who possessed them, and still does.This is a finely written and detailed chronology, superbly evocative of time and place, with beautifully and lovingly drawn portraits of family members (both black and white sheep) that come alive as the author digs ever deeper into his family's rise and fall. This book has so profoundly enriched my understanding of 19th and 20th European cultural history, I consider it among the finest books of any genre I have ever read. The illustrated edition is more expensive, but worth it for the photos, and also because for me at least, this book itself is an object I will cherish and share for many years to come.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring March 15 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
A book that raises questions about our relationship to objects, to ownership of art and the meanings they have in our lives and the stories they tell of who we were in the world . And a book that, underneath, writes the history of a Jewish family during the terrible years of the two great wars.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book i have read in ages March 12 2011
By moky
This book has it all:history, scenery, art, emotions, subtlety, great writing, and all this from a man who is a well known potter but not a writer.
I highly recommand it; you are in for a treat!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than fiction Feb. 26 2013
By DMarc
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The inanimate comes alive by tracing the lineage of a family through the owners of a particular netsuke collection. The past lives through each hand that has touched these tiny wood and ivory carvings.
It's an intimate journey through time, art, fashion, political and social climates.
You will be transported.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I did not care for the long, tedious descriptions of the personalities who were suffering from over indulgent personalities and life styles. I got so discouraged reading about those entanglements that I decided I did not care about ivory nutsukes, or their quests for them or their houses, clothing, social interactions,reasons for the obsession about these or their life styles.
Finally in desparation, I gave up on the tediousness of the endless descriptions and gave the book to A second hand store.
Sorry Mr. DeWaal---I just didn't like working that hard to enjoy ceramics and nutsukes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Love the book and the story line but I wish ... Feb. 3 2015
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Love the book and the story line but I wish the author had not been so eager to impress us with his vocabulary. My friend who recommended the book reads with dictionary in hand. I was running to the computer to see the artists' works. The book really takes one to another time and place - lets you feel what is was like to be Jewish in Europe just before the war. And what those people accomplished in their lifetimes.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Fiction April 21 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was very pleased, as usual, with the prompt delivery and accurate quality description that I find on Amazon. The book is a non-fiction and was difficult to get into. It makes an interesting read if you in to historical recounting of families.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The book came in excellent condition. As to the content
The book came in excellent condition .As to the content , I am not sure yet as I am only halfway into it . Read more
Published 7 months ago by roseline
3.0 out of 5 stars Take your time with this one!
The last part of the book v. interesting - I learned a lot about life in wartime cities. Difficult to get into the first, introductory, part. My husband agrees. Read more
Published 8 months ago by June Solntseff
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating tracing of a family's possessions
The stories that eminated from the second world war appear to be infinite. this story of a very wealthy family is woven through the collection of Japanese miniature sculptures and... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rosi Fisher
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting for art history fans
Interesting for anyone interested in art history and the impact of the Second World War on Jewish families living in Austria.
Published 11 months ago by Nellie_mcb
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Find
I am impressed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though at the beginning I was wondering if I would even get through it. Read more
Published 12 months ago by A1teacher
1.0 out of 5 stars The Hare With Amber
I haven't read it yet. I will get to it later after the next book club meeting, whenever that is
Published 15 months ago by Lyn Ferns
3.0 out of 5 stars An innovative construction of a family history using art objects
Edmund de Waal traces his family history, the Ephrussi family, using the device of tiny Japanese sculptures called netsuke. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ken Wilson
3.0 out of 5 stars Not everyone's cup to teac
I like this book but it would not be everyone's cup of tea. It is a non-fiction family history, heavy on 19th Century Paris and Viennese history, fine arts and architecture. Read more
Published 21 months ago by M.Holm
5.0 out of 5 stars A mind opening surprise.
This is an extraordinary book in a number of ways. It is beautifully written by someone who is not a professional writer. Read more
Published 22 months ago by John
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