Winner of the 2010 COSTA Biography Award. A total of 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. Marcel Proust was briefly his secretary and used Charles as the model for the aesthete Swann in Remembrance of Things Past. Charles's passion was collecting; the netsuke, bought when Japanese objects 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, smuggled out of the huge Viennese palace (then occupied by Hitler's theorist on the 'Jewish Question'), one piece at a time, in the pocket of a loyal maid - and hidden in a straw mattress.
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, in prose as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves, he tells the story of a unique collection which passed from hand to hand - and which, in a twist of fate, found its way home to Japan.
This audio edition also features an interview with Edmund De Waal from the Vintage Books podcast.
©2011 Edmund de Waal (P)2011 Random House Audio Go
Wow, everyone seems to be raving about this book, but I found it a tedious relating of one family's catalog of acquisitions, and then reading of their loss and the subsequent demise of the family, due to the war. Yes it is very sad none the less, as are all stories of the victims of persecution, but this one failed to grab me.
"The Hare with Amber Eyes"
If you want to be bored get this book. I began listening hoping I would learn a lot about Netsukes, but no, I am not sure if even the Author knew what he wanted to write about. I got as far as Chapter 4 and just could not stand listening any longer, even the TV was better !! Not a good buy and a great disappointment.
"The Hare with Amber Eyes"
A lovely, absorbing read - portal to a family history both entertaining and relevant. It was a little slow sometimes, but there were some unforgettable word-pictures of scenes and activities far away and long ago which came to life in the telling. I found the narrator's style of speech somewhat prissy, and found at the end that he had mispronounced the word netsuke from beginning to end - why didn't any check in the editing department? The interview with the author right at the end put me right. Altogether very absorbing and entertaining and all credit to the author for his thorough and painstaking research.
Like others I bought this because of five star reviews, despite not being grabbed by it when I caught a fragment on Radio 4. I can't finish it, it's just so tedious. Like a cream gateaux that's gorgeous when you have one mouthful but sickening after too much, the descriptions of the fabulously wealthy Ephrussi family in Paris and Vienna, their clothes, their furniture and their palaces, soon lie heavy on the stomach. There is nothing here of interest about their lives, presented as empty socialising, nor about the wider society in which they live, apart from speculation as to how they might have been affected by the high class snubbing of anti-semitism. The breathy excitement of the reader, especially at the beginning (or did I get used to it?) I also found tedious, an attempt to inject some life into this plodding tale perhaps.
"My favourite book of all time"
This is an epic novel and I find it baffling that previous reviews have been quite scathing. It roves beautifully through Japan, Vienna, Paris, Odessa and England through the delightful netsuke wrapped up in a human story which has great wealth and great tragedy. Stunning imagery - who can forget the yellow armchair and a journey which is so special to the author. This book is simply lovely and the gentle, modulated tones of the narrator Michael Maloney will wash over you. I found it repaid 2 listens as it covers a lot of ground, historically and geographically with many characters to remember - but that is the beauty of this book. Take your time and bathe in it!
This book is truly brilliant and beautifully read. A most amazing story of an amazing family. I recommend it very highly.
"Just not for me"
I bought this book because of the rave reviews and high ranking in the best sellers list. I made a mistake. After listening to it for about 2 hours, I turned it off and I do not plan to finish it.
The book is well written and it is well read, but I just could not get into it. If I was related to the author then it might have been interesting family history, but I'm not. I found it as compelling as a well written and well read shopping list.
"Just not for me!"
As a result of the high ratings I decided to purchase this audiobook. I found it really hard to get in to. I normally would not give up on a book as often they can be slow burners. This one never even smouldered! I gave it 2 hours of listening then it just became a real chore. The book was very unusual and well read...just not for me!
"watching paint dry"
After about an hour or so I gave up, it was pointless and a waste my time, I regret purchasing it in the first place,
This book is beautiful - a story of a family, European and world history of the last 2 centuries, social attitudes to women, Jews, and others, relationships, art. It is entirely about memory and perception and it's high art. It's a gripping story, accessible while being literary, and very well read. I highly recommend it to anyone looming for something a little different to the normal run of things.
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