I have not read the printed version and I prefer to listen rather than to read. The reader of this book does an excellent job and it was a pleasure to listen to him. He made the book come alive.
For me, as a Jew, the story had special significance in highlighting the history of the wealthy Jewish community in London, Vienna and Paris before the world wars, and illustrating the dreadful antisemitism which overwhelmed them and sought - for not good reason - to exterminate them. I never knew about such an educated, cultured and wealthy Jewish class in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and their incredible contribution to the societies in which they lived, and which despised them simply for their 'otherness'.
I enjoyed his compassionate voice , his ability to make the different characters come alive - to act out the story.
I was physically upset by the descriptions of the antisemitism and of vileness of the Nazis in the Time of Hitler. I was also upset by the descriptions of how ordinary Germans; so called friends, neighbors; so called decent, cultured people - could stoop to such degradations whether they purported individual acts of savagery themselves, or benefited from the murder of millions of people and their theft and destruction of the property and art treasures that the Ephrussi family amassed and which would have been a gift to mankind.
I found the first 50 or so pages, quite repetitive and could not understand such a prolonged peon to the arts and artifacts that are so passionately described. The story came alive to me when it moved into greater depth about the Ephrussi families and particular characters - and the circumstances that befell them. The fact that is based on fact, was very interesting to me.
De Waal takes you deeply into this family (his family), generation after generation, so that not only do you care about individuals, but you understand how they originated their enormous wealth (in Russia), how they lived in the upper classes of European society, and how they were affected by 20th-century anti-semitism --- all this "threaded" by a collection of netsuke. Brilliant!
This was a little slow at first, but once I got with the ruminative rhythm of it, I really enjoyed it. It's poetic nature is charming and an apt complimentary style to it's subject matter, the tiny and exquisite sculptures.
Yes...I've told all my friends about it! Especially those that enjoy history, art and a fascinating tale!
The sad and poignant loss of the family's treasure (status and monetary) during WW II.
Imagining the children playing with the Netsuke while their mother dressed in her dressing room!
Imaging the author walking the streets of Vienna, envisioning the former glory of his family's incredible residence.
I am a lifelong lover of books. I got my degree in English & worked in the publishing business for many years. Now I work with wildlife.
This book got good reviews so I wanted to read it. It did not disappoint. The narration by Michael Maloney was a little overly dramatic, but didn't turn me off. The history of Edmund de Waal's family was fascinating and somewhat sad. The fact that they were enormously wealthy did not protect them, as jews, from WWI and WW2. They lost pretty much everything except for this large collection of netsuke, small ivory and/or wooden ornaments originally carved for samuri warriors to wear on their belts. Despite the dramatic narration, I would definitely recommend this book.
Every once in a while, I come across a book that has a surprising impact on me, and judging by the reviews it has received, its international best-seller status, and the number of literary prizes it has been awarded, I’m far from being alone in my appreciation of “The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss,” by Edmund de Waal. This book can be read on many levels, to wit, (1) a family history of a fabulously wealthy European merchant banking Jewish family from 1870 to after WWII, (2) a social history of Russia, Austria and France, (3) an artistic and literary history of that same period, (4) a political history, (5) a guide to certain aspects of Japanese art, (6) a history of the introduction and acceptance of Japanese art into European culture, and (5) a compendium of the introduction and insidiousness of European anti-Semitism and its culmination in the rise of Nazism and the holocaust. A distinguishing feature of “The Hare with Amber Eyes” is its use of a collection of Japanese netsuke, wood and ivory carvings no bigger than a matchbox, as a literary device with which the author traces the travels of the collection in the possession of the Ephrussis family through 150 years of history. The author, himself an Ephrussis descendant, is a famous English ceramicist, and this book will establish him as a practitioner of literary English of the highest artistic order. “The Hare with Amber Eyes” tells a profound tragedy, a testament to the depravity of mankind. I find nothing optimistic in it, but others do. I suspect that what a reader has to say about this tale has as much to do about the nature of the reader, his or her life experiences and philosophy, as it has to do with the book itself, but, surely, this is a sign of good literature. As tragic as this history is, the book is not a downer, nor is it depressing. Rather, it depicts a tragedy in the classic sense, one that elevates the appreciation of life. The narrator is excellent.
I wasn't interested in the subject matter. My mother loved this book, so I tried it.
Perhaps more scholarly, unemotional readers.
Actually his British accent made the story seem even more impersonal
I was intrigued by the Netsuke and thought the story could have been told in a much more interesting fashion. I would have scraped so much I don't know where to begin...
There was little to relate to, no one to root for and a jagged story line to follow. The author veered so often into unnecessary territory it angered me! I found myself thinking this story could have been great - his portrayal of the characters made them so removed and aloof from others and their heritage. I wanted to like the characters and wanted to know more about how they felt! Although there was a great deal of Jewish history that I was unaware of and sickened by, it didn't do enough for me to keep me engaged. I was ashamed of these Jews who tried so hard to become Austrians and disavow themselves of their Jewishness - I couldn't understand them! The author writes well but with little humanity!
The narrator of this book had such a difficult job because there were so many various foreign words to overcome, but he did his job perfectly--as if he knows German, French and Japanese himself.
The lyrical writing is really beautiful and the meditation on the nature of family, history and art makes this book memorable. It builds up to the climax of what we all know will happen to Jews of Europe, but the set up is masterful and conjures up a bygone era so masterfully.
I recommend looking at the book too because there is a really useful family tree in the front of it that is quite helpful. There are also photos that the author included of his family and they help explain the story.
Kudos to Michael Maloney, who is a wonderful narrator.
Beautifully written and observed.
Very unusual point of view about intimate things we all experience but only half consciously. Written by a true artist. BTW: if you read this book, go on line to see the objects he writes about AND his own ceramics are amazing.
Incredible nuance. I am floored by the performance.
Don't miss this book !