“The Hare With The Amber Eyes” by Edmund De Waal

The Hare With The Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal is the story of how an inherited collection of netsuke (small ornamental carved pieces traditionally used to attached an object such as a purse to the belt of a kimono) originally came into the ownership of his family, but gradually becomes the history of his family from the last 19th century to date.

I received this as a Christmas present from my other half who was drawn in by the cover but knew nothing about it. Not long after that we saw the author interviewed and it actually put me off reading the book for a long time, as I felt it would be too highbrow and arty for me, but I have so few books left on the TBR shelf, that it came time to read it now.

I couldn’t have been more wrong in my prejudging of this book. Far from highbrow, the author tells the history of his family with warmth and affection, and at the same time gives a social commentary on what a wealthy Jewish family experienced through the some very dark times in our history. And yet again, despite not usually reading books set in or around war, I found myself reading about the family living through both WW1 and WW2, and yet again, learning about another aspect of the war I knew nothing about, particularly that of the occupation of Vienna. But it’s a very personal book, and I loved the time spent with and finding out about the uncle from whom he inherited the netsuke, who had eventually settled in Japan.

I enjoyed reading this book immensely, and far from being the art history book I had been expecting, the history of a family through the 20th century from a social sphere so far removed from my own, was fascinating to read.

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