Thursday, March 07, 2013
review: The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal
there are times when a book transcends across the best seller lists and into the must read category because it provides pleasure to so many readers and the Hare With Amber Eyes is one of those books.
Small Japanese wood and ivory carvings, often of animals, are a thing of beauty and when Edmund de Waal wonders about the netsuke he has inherited it sparks off a journey through his family history that is a story that covers most of the crucial moments of the 20th century.
Having recently strolled through the Japanese rooms at the British Museum and looked at the case of netsuke on the walls you can appreciate just why these small but beautifully carved objects can inspire such devotion.
His family story takes in Russia, Paris and the brutality of the second world war towards jews before it heads to Japan and a world where post-war there were Westeners starting to enjoy a country that still had a great deal of mystery surrounding it.
What keeps you reading through a personal memoir and family tree is the story itself. The history is all the more powerful because it is personal and there are moments of cruelty to some of those relatives living in Vienna that remind you of the ugliest side of the last century.
But the main takeway for me is the way the story is told. There is a certain style that comes through and makes you feel a great warmth towards someone elses tale. We all come from different backgrounds but perhaps if we dug a little deeper we too might find that at crucial points in the world's history our relatives were out there facing their own tough decisions.