The Hare With Amber Eyes

by Charlotte Reads Classics

The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal

This book is so good. Edmund de Waal inherits a collection of 264 japanese netsuke from his great uncle in Tokyo. They have been in his family since they were bought in Paris in the 1870s. Since then they have been handed from one family member to another, and have travelled from Paris to Vienna to England to Tokyo.

Edmund de Waal comes from the Ephrussi family, very European, with an amazing history. The story begins with Charles Ephrussi, the original collector of the netsuke. Charles is one of the two men who were the model for Proust’s master creation: Charles Swann. And this is just the beginning.

Joyfully, de Waal is a wonderful story teller, and gives such a personal tinge to these objects. As he travels around Europe and back through history, he uncovers some difficult and sad moments (a jewish family in Vienna during the second world war speaks for itself). This intelligently emotive history becomes a broader exploration of what it means to collect things and pass them on. Do objects hold a memory of where they’ve been and what has happened to the people who held them?