Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

My favourite book of the year so far! Edmund de Waal traces the history of his unique inheritance: a collection of over 260 netsuke, or small Japanese carvings.

The netsuke travel with various members of the Ephrussi family from a Parisian apartment hung with Impressionist paintings, to Vienna under both the Emperor and Hitler, to post-war England and bombed out Japan.

The book captures much of what is beautiful about the period - clothes, architecture, art, summer houses, optimism - and much of what is ugly -  what it means to lose a war, the racism involved in collecting, and most vividly, crushing anti-Semitism.

It is also a biography of a family, and a honest reflection on the way an author creates a story around a set of events, objects and places.