The Hare With Amber Eyes Book Summary - The Hare With Amber Eyes Book explained in key points

The Hare With Amber Eyes summary

Edmund de Waal

Brief summary

The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal is a captivating family memoir that traces the journey of a collection of Japanese netsuke through generations, offering a unique perspective on art, culture, and history.

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    The Hare With Amber Eyes
    Summary of key ideas

    A Journey Through the Ephrussis' Family Legacy

    In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal embarks on a personal journey through the illustrious history of his family, the Ephrussis. Starting from Odessa, a vibrant multicultural city in the 19th century, the narrative introduces us to the Ephrussi family's grain merchants who amassed considerable wealth comparable to the Rothschilds. The prosperity of their business branch in Vienna enabled them to enter high society and amass a grand collection of artworks, including a collection of 264 Japanese netsuke, miniature carvings.

    The book continues from the viewpoint of one member, Charles Ephrussi, a sophisticated art critic and enthusiast residing in Paris. Charles becomes a significant patron of the Impressionists and receives the collection of netsuke as a wedding gift. The netsuke are somewhat of an anomaly amid his impressive assemblage of art pieces yet symbolize a form of art devoid of grandeur or pretention. They are symbolic objects in this family narrative, minor yet powerful.

    From the Glory Days to Dark Times

    As anti-Semitism begins to rise in Europe, the glory days of the Ephrussis start to fade. During the Nazi Anschluss of Austria, the Vienna Ephrussis are bound by their Jewish lineage, enduring a catastrophic seizure of their property, including their prized art collection. However, the small netsuke hidden in a decoratively worn mattress remain safe due to their unlikeliness to attract Nazi interest.

    The custodian of the netsuke during this perilous time is Anna, the Ephrussis' devoted maid, who safeguards the collection inside her mattress. After the war, Anna hands over the netsuke to Ignace Ephrussi, who manages to escape the Holocaust and relocates to Tokyo, bringing family heirloom and its history with him.

    Retracing the Footsteps in Post-war Tokyo

    Now in his possession, Ignace Ephrussi, radically different in mindset from his forebears, finds solace in the meditative traditional rituals of Japan. The small tactile netsuke become an intimate connection to his family's past — a tactile link stretching over continents and histories. The collection eventually finds its way to the author Edmund de Waal, Ignace’s grandson, in England.

    Upon inheriting the netsuke, de Waal takes it upon himself to trace their journey, unearthing the saga of the Ephrussi family: their rise to prominence, the horrific impact of the world wars, their cultural love affair with art, and their resilience amid turmoil. In this quest, the netsuke serve as touchstones through diverse eras and places, guiding the author's understanding of his lineage.

    Conclusion and Reflection

    The Hare with Amber Eyes is not merely a family memoir but a profound exploration of the ephemeral nature of wealth, the transformative power of art, and the grim history of European anti-Semitism. The netsuke, often unnoticed against monumental art displays, ultimately serve as poignant metaphors of survival, persistently embodying the Ephrussi family's legacy through generations and turbulent times.

    In conclusion, de Waal's journey into the heart of his family's past isn’t simply reconstructive but reflective, prompting us to consider our own relationship with our heritage. His intimate encounter through these objets d'art helps us realize that sometimes, the seemingly insignificant aspects of our personal or familial history can provide the deepest insights into our lineage and ourselves.

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    What is The Hare With Amber Eyes about?

    The Hare With Amber Eyes is a family memoir that traces the journey of a collection of Japanese netsuke figurines through five generations of the author's family. Through meticulous research and storytelling, de Waal uncovers the history and significance of these small objects, while also exploring themes of art, inheritance, and the impact of war on a family. It offers a unique perspective on the power of objects to connect us to our past.

    The Hare With Amber Eyes Review

    The Hare With Amber Eyes (2010) is a captivating memoir that takes readers on a journey through time, art, and family history. Here's why you should pick up this book:

    • With its fascinating exploration of art and collectibles, it sheds light on the transformative power of objects and their stories.
    • The book uncovers generational connections and the enduring impact of historical events on family dynamics, offering a unique perspective on personal and cultural identity.
    • Through its evocative prose and meticulous research, it transports readers to different eras and locations, immersing them in a rich tapestry of history and emotion.

    Who should read The Hare With Amber Eyes?

    • Readers who enjoy historical non-fiction
    • Art and antique enthusiasts interested in the stories behind objects
    • Those curious about family history and the impact of cultural and political events on personal narratives

    About the Author

    Edmund de Waal is a renowned British ceramic artist and writer. He is best known for his book "The Hare With Amber Eyes," which traces the history of his family through a collection of Japanese netsuke. De Waal's writing is characterized by its lyrical and introspective style, and he has received critical acclaim for his ability to weave personal narratives with broader historical and cultural themes. In addition to his literary work, de Waal's ceramic art has been exhibited in major galleries and museums around the world.

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    The Hare With Amber Eyes FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Hare With Amber Eyes?

    The main message of The Hare With Amber Eyes is the power of objects to tell stories and connect us to our past.

    How long does it take to read The Hare With Amber Eyes?

    The reading time for The Hare With Amber Eyes varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Hare With Amber Eyes a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Hare With Amber Eyes is a captivating and thought-provoking book. It offers an exploration of art, history, and the enduring power of human connections.

    Who is the author of The Hare With Amber Eyes?

    The author of The Hare With Amber Eyes is Edmund de Waal.

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