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Download The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Familys Century of Art and Loss Audiobook, by Edmund de Waal Click for printable size audiobook cover
2.99987856709168 out of 52.99987856709168 out of 52.99987856709168 out of 52.99987856709168 out of 52.99987856709168 out of 5 3.00 (8,235 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Edmund de Waal Narrator: Michael Maloney Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2011 ISBN: 9781427215703
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"The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss" is the story of the Ephrussis, a great Jewish family that lived in Austria but was displaced with the advent of the Nazis. De Waal tells us the story of the family by recounting the history of a collection of Japanese figurines called netsuke. Made of wood and ivory, the netsuke were first purchased by Charles Ephrussi who was a connoisseur of art and had a collection that included many great European artists such as Manet and Renoir.

After owning the netsuke for a few years, Charles sent them as a wedding gift to his cousin Viktor who was the second son of the head of the Ephrussi family. However, when Viktor's older brother ran off with his father's mistress, he was disinherited, and Viktor was groomed to take the old man's place. Viktor took on the financial responsibility of the empire and married Emmy with whom he had a large family. Although Emmy had a number of lovers, she was a good mother and spent many languorous evenings reading with her children.

Unfortunately, this was when the Nazis struck and all the family valuables were destroyed except for the netsuke which were hidden by a faithful maid in the household. Emmy killed herself, and Viktor and his daughter Elizabeth managed to escape to England with very little. Two of the sons made their way over to the US, including Ignace or Iggie who became a member of the intelligence corps due to his flair for languages. Iggie eventually went to Japan where he became a financier and found a long-term partner. The netsuke were in his possession but eventually made their way over to Edmund de Waal, the grandson of Viktor's daughter, Elizabeth, and this was what prompted his writing of the family history.

This is indeed a fascinating tale in which fortunes grow and shrink. People go through good times and are then brutally attacked; everything that they own goes down the drain, and yet, they survive and move on. In a reversal of roles, the black sheep of the family, Iggie, eventually became the successful one. The Hare with Amber Eyes, (which refers to one of the figurines), is written with artistic flair and shows a connoisseur's pleasure in beautiful things. At the same time, it's nostalgic and can't help looking back at the great days of the Ephrussis with a kind of longing.

Edmund de Waal was born in Nottingham, England, the son of Esther Aline and Rev. Dr. Victor de Waal and grandson of Elizabeth and Hendrik de Waal. He became interested in ceramics at an early age, learning to make pots and deferred his college studies to become more involved in ceramics and visit Japan. He then attended Cambridge and studied English, following this with a diploma in the Japanese language from Sheffield University.

Today, de Waal is known as one of the foremost potters in England; his porcelain pots, essentially classical-looking but with minor irregularities have made him well known in the art world. He has also written two books, the first about the ceramicist Bernard Leach and the second about the Ephrussi family, The Hare with Amber Eyes. The latter has received several awards including the Ondaatje Prize and the Costa Book Award.

Download The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss from The Audio Bookstore and follow the fate of these Japanese figurines from the time they were first bought by the Ephrussi family to the present.

The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who "burned like a comet" in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.

The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.

The netsuke—drunken monks, almost-ripe plums, snarling tigers—were gathered by Charles Ephrussi at the height of the Parisian rage for all things Japanese. Charles had shunned the place set aside for him in the family business to make a study of art, and of beautiful living. An early supporter of the Impressionists, he appears, oddly formal in a top hat, in Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party. Marcel Proust studied Charles closely enough to use him as a model for the aesthete and lover Swann in Remembrance of Things Past.

Charles gave the carvings as a wedding gift to his cousin Viktor in Vienna; his children were allowed to play with one netsuke each while they watched their mother, the Baroness Emmy, dress for ball after ball. Her older daughter grew up to disdain fashionable society. Longing to write, she struck up a correspondence with Rilke, who encouraged her in her poetry.

The Anschluss changed their world beyond recognition. Ephrussi and his cosmopolitan family were imprisoned or scattered, and Hitler's theorist on the "Jewish question" appropriated their magnificent palace on the Ringstrasse. A library of priceless books and a collection of Old Master paintings were confiscated by the Nazis. But the netsuke were smuggled away by a loyal maid, Anna, and hidden in her straw mattress. Years after the war, she would find a way to return them to the family she'd served even in their exile.

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal unfolds the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. Sweeping yet intimate, it is a highly original meditation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.

Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Among shortlisted titles for RSL Ondaatje Prize Shortlist, 2011
  • Winner of RSL Ondaatje Prize Winner, 2011

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ahf | 2/12/2014

    " This is an amazing thoughtful, interesting, and poignent history of a family, a set of objects and in many ways the history of europe. It touches on so many intereseting areas it is hard to describe. I couldn't put it down. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Madeleine | 2/7/2014

    " Wonderful book - warm, loving, interesting, moving and very well written. Definitely on my top shelf. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Debby | 1/22/2014

    " This book, about the Ephussi Family, starts out very slowly with mostly the art history of the family in Paris, but picks up when the author moves to write about the family in Vienna and their experiences in the WWII. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dian Hilliard | 1/22/2014

    " Very good book,this memoir was interesting,full of art history and a touching story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Crystal | 1/19/2014

    " This book was a fascinating portrait of a family that really brings the extent of the Jewish diaspora to life. Just as the author took sidetracks into the history of japonisme and the life of Proust, I was inspired to pull out my Bernard Leach catalog (the author is a potter who trained under a disciple of Leach) and research the history of Odessa. This is a rich history of people and things, as they move through a variety of places. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rita Comstock | 1/15/2014

    " You might want to skip parts of the beginning--there is a lot of name dropping and little forward movement of the story. But overall, the book tells an interesting story of one Jewish family's experience in Europe during WW2. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Armen | 1/10/2014

    " It's a fascinating book on Edmund de waal's family's past, telling the story of three generations of ancestors, living in Paris, Vienna and Japan. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gayle | 12/1/2013

    " A little too much detail at times for me. But this added another whole dimension to a couple of periods of history -- most particularly to the impressionist era in Paris that I found fascinating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megumi | 11/3/2013

    " If you can make it past Paris -- yes it is hard -- and get into the Vienna section you will be rewarded. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emily Simnitt | 10/27/2013

    " What a great, fascinating read! The history, the mediation on art and objects, the reflection on the author's research process...all things to recommend this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linden | 10/17/2013

    " Story of the wealthy Ephrusssi family, their fate from the 1890's forward, and the netsuke collection they acquired. Nonfiction. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carrie | 3/23/2013

    " Best book in a long time. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Julie | 1/27/2013

    " Very hard to read but worth it for the interesting historical point of view and philosophy of inheritance. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Vera | 10/15/2012

    " I am afraid the Rothschilds have lost their way, generally. They hardly "shine". I find it impossible to believe they ever did. It's a story of absolute privilege. Forgive my yawn. Or not. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mhbright | 5/10/2012

    " Justly praised as one of the best books of last year, this is a fascinating combination of art, history and family. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joy | 1/19/2012

    " Intriguing look at a collection, a family, and the effects Hilter and the political right wing had on them. This nonfiction recounting and memoir is a wonderful change of pace from fiction reads. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brenna | 12/16/2011

    " Took too long to get involved in story before it became interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ian Currie | 9/14/2011

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was well written and the family's history was fascinating. Well worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate Schaefer | 6/29/2011

    " I loved it. It had history, intrigue, and a philosophy of art and objects that was thought provoking. I read it with my ipad next to me so I could look everything up. It was nerdy fun! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindsey | 6/19/2011

    " Such a good read - and not what I expected at all. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 6/13/2011

    " A family story told through the collection of 264 Japanese Netsuke wook and ivory carvings that moved between several different generations of the Ephrussis family, and were among the few possessions saved from the Naziz. An interesting story of a family empire told in an interesting manner. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amber | 6/9/2011

    " This book is riveting. Wish I had a family history like this (well, maybe not all of it). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Keri | 6/2/2011

    " I found it fascinating - the rise and fall of a Jewish family in Europe across 150 years using the netsuke as the means to do this. The description of the Anschluss in Austria was horrific but the resilience of the survivors was inspiring. "

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About the Author
Author Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal is one of the world’s leading ceramic artists, and his porcelain is held in many major museum collections. His bestselling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes has been published in thirty languages and won the Costa Biography Award and the RSL Ondaatje Prize. It was shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize, the PEN/Ackerley Prize and the Southbank Sky Arts Award for Literature, and longlisted for the Orwell Prize and BBC Samuel Johnson Prize. He lives in London with his family.

About the Narrator

Michael Maloney is an actor who has appeared in numerous television productions, including as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Prince Hal in Henry IV, parts 1 and 2, for which he won Best Actor/Best Supporting Actor awards. His theater credits include Sleuth, Peer Gynt, and All My Sons, and his film credits include The Young Victoria and Notes on a Scandal. He has narrated numerous audiobooks, earning seven AudioFile Earphones Awards.