The Hare with Amber Eyes (Illustrated Edition): A Hidden Inheritance Info

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The definitive illustrated edition of the international

Two hundred and sixty-four
Japanese wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger 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 far more dramatic story than he could ever have

From a burgeoning empire in Odessa to fin de
siècle Paris, from occupied Vienna to postwar Tokyo, de Waal
traces the netsuke's journey through generations of his remarkable
family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century. With sumptuous
photographs of the netsuke collection and full-color images from de
Waal's family archive, the illustrated edition of The Hare with Amber
transforms a deeply intimate saga into a work of visual

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Reviews for The Hare with Amber Eyes (Illustrated Edition): A Hidden Inheritance:


June 13, 2013

Rather Lame
I was astounded to see so many five stars. It made me wonder if all the positive reviews were from actual readers and not publishing company employees. Maybe all the diehard collectors of the world reviewed this?

When I started reading this book, I assumed the netsuke would be a metaphor for something, or at least serve to weave together stories about interesting people. But instead it was a book literally about little objects passing from one bland individual to the next. Maybe the netsuke were a metaphor for boredom. It sure seemed like it.

This book was not really a narrative. It was just a bunch of disconnected descriptions of opulent places, expensive art, and colorless rich people. In the end, nothing really happened. Wow, laquer boxes, paintings, little carvings. Whoop-dee-doo. Not for me.

There is a part around page 50 where the author brags about his relative being the first to use a certain obscure, artsy word in print. It's always hard to know if the Brits are joking; but if he was serious, then how lame. That stuck in my mind to the end.

Somebody had sent this to me, I guess because I live in Japan, and my grandmother had collected antiques from the Far East, including some netsuke. The antiques have some sentimental value, but I don't understand the obsession with the objects themselves.

March 13, 2015

Parts of the book in isolation were fascinating but it was a frustrating read because it seemed so often to lose its way.
I started reading this book a couple of months ago but before I'd read much more than 1/4 of it had tired of it. I put it down and started another (Jo Nesbo) book. Then hearing another two people discussing it at Book Group I decided to give it another go.
It is classed as a biography and I suppose that is what it is. But it purports to follow the history of a collection of netsuke bequeathed to the author by his uncle. This was my first encounter with netsuke and it took at least 1/2 way through the book before I had a more or less satisfactory description of these items and what they were used for. Originating in Japan they were very small figures carved from wood or ivory used to weigh down the sash on a japanese garment. I never did find out how.
There were several pictures in the book, and rather poor reproductions they were. But none that showed any of these miniatures.
Because of the blurb and the title I was waiting to find out the story behind the Hare with Amber Eyes. This particular netsuke was listed in the collection 1/3 the way through the book but never again until a few pages from the end.
So the book really tells of the author's research to find where these little articles came from and the history of a Jewish family in Europe during the course of approximately 100 years.
The first section is set in Paris where he retraces the family to the apartments occupied by Charles in the 1880s. It was Charles who bought the collection. He was an art critic and circulated in the salons of Paris on intimate terms with such people as Manet, Renoir, writers and composers. He built up a collection of art works as well as this set of netsuke. This was a fascinating part of the book but it seemed to be a deviation – where was the Hare with Amber Eyes and when were we going to start following it?
His search takes him to Vienna in the early 20th century where the family had established the Euphrassi bank and they lived in the opulent Euphrassi Palais on the Ring Road. Again, a fascinating account of the author's great-grand parents. The banker, Viktor, his wife Emmy and the netsuke in a cabinet in Emmy's dressing room were central to the ritual where the children were allowed to play with the netsuke while Emmy was dressing. Then came the Aryanisation of Vienna and the account of the evacuation of the Jewish families to various parts of Europe.
Edmund traces his grandmother to Tunbridge Wells and it is only later that it is revealed that the netsuke have been rescued from the Nazi pilfering of anything of value by the Viennese gentile maid and are now in the possession of his uncle Ignace (Iggy).
I thought I must have come to the end of the book as I embarked on the Chapter headed "Coda". But no. There were several more.
Parts of the book in isolation were fascinating but I believe it should have been severely edited or turned into a series of articles. It was a frustrating read because it seemed so often to lose its way.

July 16, 2016

More than any account I have come across, this book depicts the horror a prominent, wealthy Jewish family experienced during the Nazi takeover of Eastern Europe. It also, on a very personal level, depicts the anti-semitism that existed long before the arrival of Hitler's army. Many of us grew up thinking that Hitler was some kind of aberration with his desire to obliterate the Jewish population when he was actually just fulfilling the fantasy of many people in many different parts of the world. I especially liked de Waal's way of exploring Paris, Vienna, Japan, England and Russia in order to physically stand in the places where events occurred. When he visited Odessa at the end of the book and realized that it wasn't the ghetto so often depicted, he turned the whole "Jewish question" on its head. Coincidentally I watched the film "The Woman in Gold", another true story of loss in the Ringstrasse of Vienna, and it served to further fill in the history we are never taught in schools. By focusing on the netsukes his ancestor collected rather than one particular family member, he managed to avoid an over-sentimentalized look at the time period. His clear-eyed recounting of events revealed a family of resilience, hope and strength--a family that survived through adaptation as well as assimilation.

December 13, 2016

Wonderful book!
Wish I could give this ten stars! Anyone interested in art, history, memoirs and mysteries will love this book. The author's quest to personally reclaim the family history of a collection of antique netsuke (of which he is the current owner), is a real page-turner. People interested in the history and destiny of looted art during WWII will enjoy this book. If you liked "The Lady in Gold," you should read this book. I've shared this book with several people to their great delight. This purchase was for the birthday of a dear friend who's an art lover. I might read it a second time myself!

July 18, 2014

One Star
couldn't get past the first few pages - pompous and uninteresting.

February 9, 2014

This is the version you want to read!!
This is a truly fine book. Edmund has an amazing command of the English language and I began reading this fascinating book as a borrowed paperback from a dear friend. I was frequently going to the dictionary to look up words or specific mentions. I decided to see if there was a Kindle edition and I opted for this one. It was the ideal choice. When the author spoke of particular pieces of art I could see them in "living" color which made the waft of the story even more vivid. I could also expand the portraits of family members and examine them with greater care for resemblances and textual descriptions.

Without giving away any part of the glory of this book, this is a story of a a collection of 264 netsuke which Edmund inherits and how they came into the author's family and their transgenerational journey from early acquisition during the Impressionist period in France to the present day. The book is detailed in its descriptions; and, for some, it may get to be too much. I felt cocooned and mesmerized by it all never losing a grasp of the harsh realities of history throughout those 150 years and four generations.

Edmund de Waal is a very accomplished ceramicist and was on the Queen's Birthday list for an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) in 2011. His sensibilities to form and structure in the world of fine art are evident throughout the book. I learned much from the account of this collection's journey through time.

I am not one to recommend books to a broad cross section of friends and acquaintances; but this is an exception. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

February 20, 2014

Very Boring!!
This book is written with way too much detail and very little story! I am forcing myself through it because I am the reviewer for my book club.

August 20, 2016

Keeping it close
This is a handsome paperback volume. I love the feel of the paper pages and the heavier smooth, cool-feeling (like netsuke) cover. Holding the book to read is a pleasure. The sketches of netsuke are fittingly small for the small art form they represent. They are refreshing and enjoyable, though not really illustrations in the sense of full- or half-page pictures.
The story is fascinating. Contrasting the calm, cool netsuke with the clamor and devastation of war has forever changed my view of history. Keeping track of the various sites of war and family required more attention than I give television. And the resulting involvement is worth it.
My earlier hard cover version got away, but this fitting replacement will be kept close.

January 12, 2014

Author is too cute with his use of words and drags this on way too long. I did not like this book.

September 3, 2016

The more you have the less you are.
Can there be any more cognitive dissonance-inducing event than attending a book group meeting where one-by-one fellow readers (who are well-read and highly esteemed) rave about a book you hate? That's what happened recently when the first several people glorified 'The Hare With Amber Eyes'. Actually, one of my only backhanded compliments about the book is its intriguing title.

Many people love this book, but not me.

The author, a well known potter, researched his once-wealthy Austrian Jewish ancestors. Another book, 'The Woman in Gold' does a great job of illuminating pre-war Vienna, and that book is revealing and fascinating before it becomes tragic. But, this book traces the patriarchs of the author's family back to 1870 Odessa, follows them to Paris, then on to Vienna. Lots of names are dropped along the way. The family collected art and/or hoarded things in large mansions. The characters in this book did not subscribe to 'the more you have the less you are' way of thinking.

Considering all the extra-marital activity, it is puzzling why paternity is the focus of this family story. These people were founding members of the 1%. They lost practically all of their things, but being rich they could and mostly did escape from the Nazis with their lives.

I kept reading the book to the end, expecting some surprising revelation about why the author spent years of his life researching dead peoples' lives. What happens when the past overtakes the present? I don't think the author subscribes to the 'be here now' way of thinking. Maybe that's why I had so much trouble appreciating his book.

February 24, 2014

Thoroughly over rated
Having been bullied by friends to read what they described as a beautifully written book, set in fascinating times and places, I found myself disappointed by the reality. Maybe my own background, which had exposed me to some of the locations mentioned, detracted from my enjoyment, but I would not recommend it to others.

August 17, 2015

Not easy to read initially
Not easy to read initially, as it appears to be a rambling monologue. But as the theme of tracing the family history develops and the Nazi invasion of Austria is described, the narrative gains momentum and finally the collection and meaning of the netsuke becomes clear.

February 23, 2014

Really liked it once I got into it
Really liked this book but it took quite a lot for me to really get into it, loved the second half & where the story went but found the first half too detailed/too focused on the art & people of the time rather than the actual story of the family.

January 20, 2016

This book is beautifully written. I found it difficult at the start
This book is beautifully written. I found it difficult at the start. Immediately one starts the reader is provided a review of art I am both familiar and not. Because the person who recommended it I persevered and as I did the underlying picture became clearer, excuse the pun. I could not put the book down as I was transported from one era and country after another. It covers a period that was mixed with some of the greatest art movements and some of the most shamefully brutal times and left me believing strong and resilient people and family can survive adverse ray and reinvent themselves.

October 19, 2013

de Waal takes us on a compelling trip into European history
For me The Hare with Amber Eyes was a can't-put-down experience.

The physical book itself, the illustrated edition, is a tactile and visual pleasure--glossy pages, a classic font with ample white space between the lines, and informative illustrations throughout--cartes de visite, postcards, photographs, art reproductions. The netsuke (some of the 264-piece collection) are lined up on shelves on the endpapers. It contains also a helpful Ephrussi genealogy.

For an illuminating overview of this fascinating memoir--de Waal, a noted potter, dedicated two years of his life researching the netsuke collection from its original purchase by Charles Ephrussi in Paris to its final home in Japan with a peripatetic uncle--I recommend Michael Dirda's review in the Washington Post, September 10, 2010.

This book has special appeal to anyone interested in late 19th-century art, in Marcel Proust, in the banking circles of wealthy Jews, in Paris, in Vienna, in the impacts of World War II on Austrian Jews. De Waal says this is his stand-alone foray into writing. Too bad, but on the other hand, the book's success has introduced Americans to de Waal, the potter, who creates exquisite cylinders of white, celadon and black porcelain which also tell "stories."

November 14, 2019

“A history of intimacy.”
This is the description by the author of his work. I love the way the story is pushed along by objects and then the epiphany comes to the author that the story itself is an object. This beautifully written book paints pictures in the mind. It is a visual book and an introspective one. I felt a visceral dialogue between the discoveries on the outside and the transformations that took place on the inside, in the mind of the writer. I relate to it because of the search for identity: Who am I and where did I come from? And do I even exist, or matter at all? That is, I connect very much with the story and marvel at how exquisitely it was told. Thank you for the memorable, meaningful, melancholic journey. Much to contemplate. A book to cherish.

March 20, 2014

Will enrich and change you
This is an amazing and powerful book. The story it conveys is in and of itself fascinating, substantial, and moving in all kinds of ways. De Waal's approach is brilliant artistically -- he uses concrete objects to present the tale convincingly, rather than editorializing or explaining -- and the story itself hits the reader on the literal level ("here's what happened") and also on a deeper emotional, thematic, even spiritual level. At a time when so many writers are preaching to their readers, or mainpulating stories to make them more significant and deep, de Wall just give it all to you and lets the reality he describes largely speak for itself. I have given this book as a gift to a number of different people, and each one has thanked me greatly for doing so. It's rare to encounter a book that feels like life itself, but this is one. This book is a wonderful thing, and the illustrated edition is very rich.

April 15, 2018

Many more illustrations in this edition of this excellent book
Excellent book, a very idiosyncratic but interesting way of delving into the author's family past. It ties the tiny netsuke objects to people and family history as well as world history of the times. A fascinating read in itself, and this hardback edition also includes extra color pictures the paperback did not, including more family photos and all the netsuke. Well worth the extra price to see as well as read this fascinating family history.

January 1, 2017

I found this book title while trying to find netsuke signatures. The website said it was a reference book all collectors needed. I bought the illustrated version for more money. The book is marketed wrong. Not a bit of help. Wasted money.

June 10, 2016

One Star
ugh. very dense and dull

May 15, 2016

Disappointing read
Tedious family history.

February 4, 2016


November 21, 2015

I read about a quarter of the book and gave up as I found it utterly boring! It is not often that I have this ...
Sorry, I read about a quarter of the book and gave up as I found it utterly boring! It is not often that I have this problem with a book. Simply a wrong choice this time.
Areta Sharp

April 10, 2015

One Star
I did not enjoy this long winded story

December 4, 2017

Poor layout and photography
This review is for the Illustrated Edition of The Hare with Amber Eyes: The worst part of this edition is that NONE of the illustrations has a caption under the illustration or even on the same page. Instead, ALL of the captions appear at the end of the book, so you have to keep flipping back and forth. I have NEVER encountered this in an illustrated book! (The previous edition had captions by the illustrations. I can't imagine why they decided to move all of those captions for this edition.) Also disappointing is the fact that the netsuke photos aren't very good. I had hoped this edition would have some good close-ups of at least some of the items in the collection. However, that isn't the case. You have to go to the Internet to find really good photos of the de Waal collection.)

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