Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance  by Edmund de Waal $29.99 Random House

The Hare With Amber Eyes is a bit like an onion.  Its layers unfurl to reveal more and more depth.  What starts as an anecdotal story of a young English student spending a two year scholarship in Japan where he connects with his expatriate Great Uncle Iggie, reveals itself to be a biographical history of a family and the world from back as far as the 1800s.

Afternoons in Tokyo with Uncle Iggie introduce Edmund to a collection of 234 Japanese Netsuke or carved ivory or wooden objects designed to be held in the hand.  Iggie remembered them from his childhood in Vienna.  Now he and his life partner and friend Jiro are sharing them with Edmund.  Edmund later inherits the collection and discovers they were first acquired by his great great Uncle Charles Ephrussi in Paris in the mid 1800s.

Edmund spends almost two years retracing the netsuke and his family’s movements across Europe.  His travels and research uncover a personal version of Europe’s turbulent years and how the political happenings impacted on the Ephrussi family and the communities they were part of.

You will love how the story slowly draws you in.  This is not a history book to be read quickly, but one to be savoured and wondered at.  It is already being long listed for literary awards.

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