A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
I think I have a new sure-bet book to suggest to readers who ask me for something wonderful to read. I will offer The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal. Set in Tokyo, Odessa, Paris, and Vienna, this book recounts six generations of a Jewish family as its fortunes rose and fell with the tides of European history. Binding the threads of story together is the fate of a collection of netsuke, tiny Japanese carvings used to toggle small purses or bags. One of the netsuke is a small hare with yellow stones inlaid as eyes.
Even sure-bet books need a reader ready for them. I know I brought The Hare with Amber Eyes home once before, read two or three pages and decided it was too involved for my mood at that time. This time I borrowed the audiobook expertly read by Michael Maloney. (Available through Media on Demand.) I enjoyed having the epic story of the Ephrussi family, Russian grain merchants transformed into international bankers, wash over me as I drove, cooked, and worked in the garden.
In an interview, de Waal says that he tried to stay out of the story, but I am glad he failed. His descriptions of travels to see old family homes and to visit archives with family papers connect our time with the 19th and 20th centuries, and we get to feel what he felt when he made discoveries. I also enjoyed learning new words, such as netsuke, bibelot, and vitrine. The Hare with Amber Eyes is a richly-told story to enjoy if you are ready. – Review by Rick