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The history of a family through 264 objects - set against a turbulent century - from an acclaimed writer and potter

264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox: potter Edmund de Waal was entranced when he first encountered the collection in the Tokyo apartment of his great uncle Iggie. Later, when Edmund inherited the 'netsuke', they unlocked a story far larger than he could ever have imagined... The Ephrussis came from Odessa, and at one time were the largest grain exporters in the world; in the 1870s, Charles Ephrussi was part of a wealthy new generation settling in Paris. Charles's passion was collecting; the netsuke, bought when Japanese objets were all the rage in the salons, were sent as a wedding present to his banker cousin in Vienna. Later, three children - including a young Ignace - would play with the netsuke as history reverberated around them. The Anschluss and Second World War swept the Ephrussis to the brink of oblivion. Almost all that remained of their vast empire was the netsuke collection, dramatically saved by a loyal maid when their huge Viennese palace was occupied. In this stunningly original memoir, Edmund de Waal travels the world to stand in the great buildings his forebears once inhabited. He traces the network of a remarkable family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century and tells the story of a unique collection.

Reviews

From a hard and vast archival mass...Mr de Waal has fashioned, stroke by minuscule stroke, a book as fresh with detail as if it had been written from life, and as full of beauty and whimsy as a netsuke from the hands of a master carver.

The Economist

This remarkable book... a meditation on touch, exile, space and the responsibility of inheritance... like the netsuke themselves, this book is impossible to put down. you have in your hands a masterpiece.

Frances Wilson, The Sunday Times

Few writers have ever brought more perception, wonder and dignity to a family story as has Edmund de Waal in a narrative that beguiles from the opening sentence

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

Part treasure hunt, part family saga, Edmund de Waal's richly original memoir spans nearly two centuries and covers half the world

Evening Standard

A book that combines the charm of a personal memoir with the resonance of world history.

Rosemary Hill, The Scotsman

[de Waal) weaves together with great delicacy various strands of the lives of a glamorous dynasty

Gerald Jacobs, The Telegraph

The miracle of this book is that, by the end, we do learn the itinerant life of this collection. How did the netsuke escape the Gestapo? How did they return to the family and move to Tokyo? The answers, like much in this book, are incredible

Frances Spalding, The Independent

Unputdownable, exquisitely crafted family memoir about the fortuned of a collection of Japanese figurines

The Sunday Times Summer Reading

Objects have always been... stolen, retrieved and lost. It is how you tell their story that really matters." He has told their story wonderfully. Oh, and this is a beautiful and unusual book, as a physical object. Someone really cared.

Veronica Horwell, Guardian

This book (is) every bit as exquisite as the diminutive sculptures that inspired it

Daragh Reddin, Metro

An intensely personal meditation on art, history and family, told in prose as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.

London Review of Books

This is a highly unusual and thought-provoking book... reading it is a window on a fresh way of looking at the world

Daisy Leitch, The Lady

There are many remarkable insights in The Hare with Amber Eyes, not least de Waal's nuanced account of the eroticized nature of French Japonisme. But a central haunting theme is European anti-Semitism, and its end-game.

Tanya Harrod, TLS

...a self-questioning, witty, sharply perceptive book, shaped as a series of journeys... by writing objects into his family history he has achieved something remarkable.

Tanya Harrod, TLS

It's the most beautiful book I've read this year

Daily Telegraph, Tracey Chevalier

Showed that what counts in a memoir is not experience alone, but intelligence and an ability to write

Philip Hensher, Spectator, Christmas round up

The best book of the year was The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal... The extraordinary history of these tiny objects encompasses many changes of habitat. This is a memorable account, written with exemplary modesty.

Anita Brookner, Spectator, Christmas round up

The Hare with Amber Eyes beautifully evokes the rise and fall of a Jewish baning family, from 19th-century Russia to fin de siècle Paris and Vienna, and their dispersal during the Nazi years.

David Herman, New Statesman, Christmas round up

I also enjoyed The Hare with Amber Eyes for the quality of the writing and the evocation of a Europe that was destroyed

Colm Toibin, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

It is a rich tale of the pleasure and pains of what it is to be human.

Bettany Hughes, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

Short, lyrical and intensely moving.

Miranda Seymour, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

A short lingering memoir by one of Britain's leading potters.

Juliet Gardiner, Daily Telegraph, Christmas round up

Part treasure hunt, part family saga, this is the haunting story of a unique collection of Japanese figurines.

Sebastian Shakespeare, Tatler, Christmas round up

There was no supper during the week I could not stop reading it, then for weeks afterwards I could talk of nothing else. It was simply enchanting

Cressida Connolly, Spectator, Christmas round up

An exquisitely described search for a lost family and a lost time. From the moment you open the book you are in an old Europe fully re-created.

Colm Toibin, Irish Times, Christmas round up

His delightful memoir on the cross-continental travelsof this collection is suffused with absolute conviction in art's central place in life.

Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, Christmas round up

Both the story he uncovers and the objects he describes are fascinating and startling.

AS Byatt, Financial Times, Christmas round up

Unexpectedly combines a micro craft-form with macro history to great effect.

Julian Barnes, Guardian, Christmas round up

I was moved and excited by Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes.

AS Byatt, Guardian, Christmas round up

Elegant. Modest. Tragic. Homeric.

Stephen Frears, Guardian, Christmas round up

A brilliantly constructed picture of vanished worlds

Antonia Fraser, Mail on Sunday, Christmas round up

intensely mannered in style... a remarkable narrative

Max Hastings, Guardian, Christmas round up

Made the hunt for a collection of rare netsuke the spine of a far-reaching family history that melds the pursuit of beautiful art with the flight from atrocious history.

Boyd Tonkin, Independent, Christmas round up

It is not often that a family saga leaves readers panting for the new ceramics galleries at the V&A.

Flora Fraser, Evening Standard, Christmas round up

A book of astonishing originality

Artemis Cooper, Evening Standard, Christmas round up

The most brilliant book I've read for years. Part memoir, part-history, it traces a collection of beautiful Japanese netsukes left to the author

Bettany Hughes, Sunday Herald, Christmas round up

Edmund de Waal's memoir-cum-cultural enquiry, chosen by several of our contributors, and described by one as the "book not only of the year, but of the decade"

Times Literary Supplement

A beautiful piece of writing, mixing family memoir, cultural history, travel narrative and nuanced observation of miniature curiosities.

Jonathan Bates, Times Literary Supplement, Christmas round up

Gripping and surprising

AS Byatt, Times Literary Supplement, Christmas round up

An extraordinary and touching journey with a backdrop glittering with images from Proute and Zola and Klimt.

Margaret Drabble, Times Literary Supplement, Christmas round up

The book not only of the year, but of the decade... a quite enchanting book, to be kept and rearead by as many generations as it describes.

Michael Howard, Times Literary Supplement, Christmas round up

Every page of Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes gave me pleasure.

Rachel Polonsky, Times Literary Supplement, Christmas round up

A beautiful and touching story delivered in prose as spare and well judged as a line of De Waal's own porcelain pots.

Richard Ingleby, Art Newspaper, Christmas round up

I know of no more effective description of the accumulated meanings, the symbolic freight, of ownership

Charles Saumarez-Smith, Art Newspaper, Christmas round up

A magical study of how objects get handled, used and handed on

Economist, Christmas round up

The most exquisite and intriguing memoir of the year

Robert Collins, Sunday Times, Christmas round up

One of the most impressive history books this year.... An intense journey through the heartache of political and racial upheaval in 19th and 20th-century Europe

Bettany Hughes, BBC History Magazine, Christmas round up

I don't know how this memoir can be surpassed. The writing is simple and powerful, the craftsman in Mr de Waal (a potter) warms to the beauty of the netsuke

Leslie Geddes-Brown, Country Life

An intensely personal meditation on art, history and family, told in prose as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves

London Review of Books

Gently erudite and personable memoir.

Emma Hagestadt

The story he tells is as exquisitely rendered as the netsuke themselves

Claire Allfree, Metro

Unputdownable, exquisitely crafted memoir

Sunday Times, Summer Reading

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780099539551

    March 1, 2011

    Vintage

    368 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

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  • EBook

    9781407052472

    July 1, 2010

    Vintage Digital

    368 pages

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  • EBook

    9781448114306

    November 17, 2011

    Vintage Digital

    432 pages

    Online retailers

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