Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes was a lovely read, beautifully written and although not quite totally unputdownable, certainly made me want to find out the ending, how these tiny carvings or netsuke, of which the hare was one, survived their journey from person to person and continent to continent. Edmund de Waal first saw the collection when he visited Japan when studying ceramics and eventually inherited the collection, which aroused his curiosity as to how they had come to him and who had owned them in the past. The story is of the family who owned them, delighted in them, and played with them. Edmund de Waal is descended from a branch of the Ephrussi family, who originated in Odessa, then travelled to Europe to set up branches of the family business. One brother set up in Paris, another in Vienna and the family prospered. One daughter of the family  married into the Rothschilds, and the Ephrussi- Rothscild Palace still graces the Riviera today. Charles Ephrussi bought the collection of Japanese netsuke from a dealer in Paris and had a glass vitrine made to display them. The collection later were transported to Vienna, where they were played with by the children of the family while their mother dressed for dinner. Their survival of the war was due to the ingenuity of a maid, who afterwards handed them back to the family. The range of emotions the author felt on discovering different stages of his family's earlier life is wonderfully and tenderly described . There are pictures of some of the netsuke here along with more information about the book and about the author.

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