The Hare With Amber Eyes

The Hare With Amber Eyes

           by Edmund DeWaal

Gail Reid (11/28/11): This most unusual book uses a collection of small ivory and wood Japanese ornaments called netsuke to trace the history of a wealthy Jewish banking family, the Ephrussis, through several generations in Europe. Edmund De Waal is a well-known British ceramicist and a direct descendant of the Ehprussis. When his great uncle dies in Japan, De Waal inherits the netsukes and traces their history back to his ancestors in Odessa, Paris and Vienna. The Ephrussis made their fortune in grain and it blossomed into banking and finance. How this fortune enabled the family to build a world class art collection is countered by the loss of more than money at the hands of the Nazis. The five generations of the Ephrussi name and their family diaspora scattered throughout Europe and Japan make for a fascinating story.

Although I liked the subject matter and respected the author's research, the style of writing is far too scholarly and erudite to call the book an enjoyable read. Were it less dry and less academic, I think it would have greater appeal to readers in general.
Rating: ***

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