I’ve decided to classify this book as a beautifully written and heartfelt memoir. It’s about history and art, but it’s more about the author’s search for the place of his physical inheritance, the netsuke, in his family’s history. Furthermore, the book does not include pictures – or it didn’t in it’s first version.
The Hare With the Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss
by Edmund de Waal
2011 / 351 pages
rating 8.75 / memoir
I first read this back in January of 2012 (see review here) and gave it a rating of 8.5 -The lack of pictures was a deliberate and aesthetic decision made in order to emphasize the feelings over the graphic glamor or horror.
This is first and foremost a very special memoir. I suppose that was a good thing for a first reading because although I think the book was intended to be read for its own value alone, the draw of seeing what the author was describing so beautifully and with so much love was irresistible – and that’s why there is a second version. lol Anyway, I Googled quite a lot as I read in order to view what de Waal was writing about. The results of that Googling are in my first review with notes (see link above).
So I’d recommend The Hare With the Amber Eyes be read it for the literary value, the feelings the author and his family had – not the riches glamor, not the excitement of Vienna, not the travelogue.
Beginning with a family tree in the introductory material de Waal is able to slowly draw us into his narrative without the usual prologue of what he intends to show. He creates an intimacy with his family connections to the very wealthy Ephrussi family, his great-great grandparents, and their descendants who include himself and his Uncle Iggy – grandfather’s brother – and de Waal relates a couple of Iggy’s old family stories. And the Prologue ends with de Waal telling us he’s the keeper of the family jewels now – the netsuke originally from Japan.
It really is a lovely book –