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The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

Written by Edmund de Waal

Narrated by Michael Maloney


The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

Written by Edmund de Waal

Narrated by Michael Maloney

ratings:
4/5 (64 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jun 1, 2011
ISBN:
9781427215703
Format:
Audiobook

Description

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.

A Macmillan Audio production.

Publisher:
Released:
Jun 1, 2011
ISBN:
9781427215703
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Edmund de Waal is one of the world’s leading ceramic artists, and his porcelain is held in many major international collections. His bestselling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, was shortlisted for numerous prizes and won the Costa Biography Award and the RSL Ondaatje Prize.


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4.0
64 ratings / 74 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    This is a delicate work detailing rather amazing figurines in some of recent history's more nefarious climates. The settings include Paris of the Dreyfus Affair and Vienna of the early 20th Century, culminating in the terrible Anschluss of 1938.
    De Waal, himself an artist, is peering backward into time. He explores his family's success, constantly aware of the menace which surrounds such. Pieces of tiny sculptures lie at the heart of this quest. The pieces are Japanese in origin. The author explores the means by which they came to Europe and his family's possession. Events are described with wry appreciation. Despite the growing tension there is detachment at play. There are few surprises in the narrative. An appreciation for family and ancestry is galvenized as the journey returns home. As does a cultured appreciation of the diminutive masterpieces.
  • (5/5)
    A magnificent family history of my favorite kind: big trends via individuals. Written so beautifully I assumed it was fiction for the first 50 pages. A serious achievement for anyone, nearly imcomprehensible as an amateur's first book. Bonus points for judaica, japonica, and Proust. Worth it for Anna
  • (3/5)
    Not entirely my cup of tea, but a great book for book club discussion. The author's background as a potter (and not an author) makes it highly unusual, which is not a negative thing necessarily, but just made it a bit challenging to get into.

    Really good historical info, though I'd suggest combining it with a more traditional narrative such as In the Garden of Beasts.
  • (5/5)
    Not generally being a reader of biography or indeed non-fiction of any sort, I wouldn't have read this fascinating book had not my aunty, who has similar tastes in literature to myself, sent me it after having raved about it over the phone for several weeks. It was rather hard to understand why she was so excited from her descriptions: "It's written by this guy, he's from an old Russian Jewish banking family and he decided to track the history of his Great-uncle's collection of Japanese netsuke..." "Wow, yeah, that sounds fascinating, Aunty Lexie..." I said, whilst privately wondering what she was on. Well, now I know, although whether I can describe the enchantment de Waal spins is another thing, especially in my present exhausted and headache-y state (unconnected with the reading process, I hasten to add!) I'll try to keep it simple: the writing is of very high quality, the style of narrative is extraordinarily engaging (the word "friendly" springs to mind) and the exploration of stories, from the author's quest on the micro scale broadening through family history to an overview of world history spanning over a century, is achieved with a delicacy of touch and intelligence that enables the complex interweaving timelines to be combined in a cohesive whole. Very, very impressive. Thanks, Aunty Lexie!
  • (4/5)
    I found this to be a well-written and thorough personal journey. I happen to really enjoy this genre, especially when there is a family tree at the beginning, to follow the story from generation to generation. Still, I did find it a bit slow at the beginning and actually put it down for a few months upon hitting the half-way point. It was good, engaging and I did not want to abandon it. I picked it up again a few days ago and found the latter half of the book much easier and more interesting and was able to finish without any problems. The author, Edmund de Waal, the British-born son of a Dutch clergyman in the Church of England, has inherited a set of 264 small *netsuke* - tiny wood and ivory carvings from Japan - from his great uncle, who lived in Tokyo. De Waal, a ceramicist, is struck by their beauty and decides to trace their origin and journeys over 5 generations through his family. His discovery of the journeys take him to Vienna, Paris, Odessa, and Japan and trace the history of a very prominent, wealthy Jewish dynasty who were decimated by the Nazis during World War II. All that remained of their wealth was this collection of netsuke, hidden and rediscovered, after the war. It took De Waal over 2 years to reconstruct the story and write this book and his obsession to do so is our gain.
  • (5/5)
    An utterly delightful mix of history and autobiography.As potter Edmond de Waal follows on the trail of the netsuke collection he covers history in many forms - art, political, family, social. And all the while painting personal pictures of his relatives, as well as his reactions.
  • (5/5)
    This is a great family biography. The author takes a look at the story behind the netsuks of his uncle, discovering a lot about his family. On the one hand, it shows the joy of the arts which his family has been cultivating and gathering since the middle of the nineteenth century. On the other hand, it is also the great suffering of his Jewish origin.The Paris part, which plays in the middle of the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century, shows Charles' collection. He was a great patron who knew and promoted various Impressionist artists. He was also the one who bought the Netsuk collection. I am fascinated by the relationship between Charles and Rodin, Degas, etc. It is about pictures I have already seen, how they originated and which figures who represent whom. Also in the Viennese part is told about arts, the collection family of the family goes on, especially the books of his great-grandfather.The ambivalent relationship between the countries and the Jews also plays a large part. On the one hand, they have always been used as money-makers and financiers for hundreds of years, and they were also highly esteemed on the other hand, they were the first to suffer when the nationalistic thinking of the nations tipped. This will be visible in the Paris part, but much more drastic in the Viennese part. What concerned me the most was not the expropriation itself, I have already read a lot about this, but rather not to return the stolen property or to receive it only at a ridicule price. With this kind of stolen property has not yet been made up to today pure table.The Tokyo section tells how the netsuks came into being and what they mean. It is a culture that is alien to me but fascinates.
  • (5/5)
    The illustrated edition is a bonus, really allows you to picture, literally, his wonderful writing and descriptions. Beautiful book, very well written, fascinating story.
  • (4/5)
    A little all over the place. But interesting as I had never heard of the Ephrussis or netsuke.
  • (4/5)
    This book follows the life of a set of Japanese netsuke (miniature sculptures). Although it sounds as though it might be dull, it is actually very interesting, because it also follows the fortunes of a great family of merchants, beginning in Odessa, through Paris, Vienna and then back to Japan, focussing in turn on the lives of each custodian of the netsuke, and providing a fascinating picture of life for the prosperous (and later of Jews during the Second World War) in each of the great cities at the relevant time. Despite my expectations (I ended up with the book quite by accident), it held my interest to the end.
  • (4/5)
    A leisurely history of a collection of Netsuke which had been in the authors family since the late 19th century. The most fantastic part is how the collection in austria in a Jewish family managed to stay in that family.
  • (5/5)
    Exceptional literary book about 5 generations of an exceptional family with an interesting history. The book began when Edward de Waal inherited a collection of 264 netsuke, tiny Japanese carvings of wood and ivory, of exceptional quality. He wanted to learn the history of the collection. His travels and the documents he found led him to Vienna, Paris, Russia and Japan. His wealthy relatives, the Ephrussis, were bankers on par with the Rothchilds, and marriage connected those families. The author makes ceramic pots at an art level.

    The story is so beautifully rendered that it's a pleasure to read and I learned many new words. It reads like a novel but is a true history and story of this remarkable family. It takes us briefly through World War II and Nazi occupation, which is where the family fortune was lost, confiscated. The netsuke collection survives because of a caring, astute maid of the family who risked her life to hide them.

    This is a remarkable book on many levels and I highly recommend it to all readers who appreciate literary works and a pleasurable history lesson.
  • (4/5)
    Part family history, part European history and all centred around netsuke, small Japanese figures.
  • (5/5)
    When Edmund de Waal inherited a priceless collection of 264 netsukes—japanese miniatures made from ivory depicting animals and scenes of everyday life—from his great uncle, Iggie, who told him how he had played with them as a child in his mother's dressing room with his siblings, the author decided to set aside his own work as a world-renowned potter and curator to travel to the places which would help him uncover the rich family history from which he descends, and of which the netsukes were the only memento of the dynasty which were the vastly wealthy Jewish Ephrussi family, rich grain merchants originally from Odessa who had become powerful bankers in Europe and who were peers to the Rothschild family, only to lose everything to the Nazis. His tale is a sweeping saga, which starts in the 19th century with the magnetic Charles Ephrussi, the original collector of the netsukes, an art collector and patron who admired and promoted the impressionists when they were still considered as radicals, and who purchased some 40 works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, and Pissarro, among others, and became part-owner and then editor and contributor to the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, the most important art historical periodical in France. As such, he was a welcome guest at some of the most famous salons in Paris and is known to be one of the inspirations for the figure of Swann in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time). He also appears in Le déjeuner des canotiers (Luncheon of the Boating Party) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir as the figure seen from the back wearing a hat. But things abruptly changed with the Dreyfus affair in 1894, when the French took sides and anti-semitism became widespread. Suddenly, many old friends were lost and became sworn enemies. De Waal continues the family history, following the path of the nestukes, who came into the hands of Charles's niece as a wedding present. Iggie's mother and the author's great grandmother was a great one for going to the opera and dinner parties wearing fashionable gorgeous dresses with perfectly matched hats and gloves, which her maid Anna always knew how to help her choose and bring off with the perfect piece of jewelry, and always, as she dressed, the children were allowed to play on the yellow rug with the priceless collection of tiny netsuke she kept in the cabinet placed in her dressing room which uncle Charles had given her. The First World War had been hard enough to get through, but then the Nazis came into power and for all of them, the enchanted world at the Palais Ephrussi was shattered forever, as they were turned out of their living quarters and their possessions taken over by the Reich, and the horrors of the holocaust forced them to flee in all directions. I rarely cry when reading a book, but I cried when Anna, after the war is over, reveals to Elizabeth, the author's grandmother, how it is she managed to smuggle the netsuke figures one by one from under the Natzi's very noses in safekeeping as a valuable memento she could salvage for the family for which she had worked all her life.
  • (5/5)
    I don't remember how I came to reserve this book at the library; indeed I was surprised when I received the notice that it was in, since the title meant nothing to me. In any case, this is a most fascinating book. Edmund de Waal is a professional potter; he makes fine porcelain objects; he has studied his art in Japan; as it turns out, he is also the scion of a quite illustrious & once fabulously wealthy European family, the Ephrussi (originally Efrussi from Berdichev, then Odessa).
    de Waal writes a biography/ memoir about his father's maternal ancestors, starting with Charles Joachim Ephrussi born in Berdichev, who becomes a prosperous grain merchant in Odessa. The family then branches out into banking and across Europe, with one son Leon sent to Paris & the other Ignace established in Vienna. The story that most concerns de Waal, however, really starts with the third generation, with Charles Ephrussi (art collector, art revue editor and publisher, associate of artists such as Degas & Renoir, writers such as Proust & various & sundry intellectuals and bon vivants of the Belle Epoque in Paris) who arrived in Paris in 1871 at the age of 22. de Waal traces his father's family history by following the trajectory of a collection of Japanese netsuke as they pass from Charles, who originally acquires them during one of the earlier waves of japonisme to hit Paris, to Charle's younger cousin Viktor and Viktor's much younger wife, Emmy Schey von Koromla in Vienna. Received as a wedding gift, the 264 netsuke in their vitrine reside while in Vienna in Emmy's dressing room. There they are taken down to be played with on the rug by her children Elisabeth (Edmund de Waal's grandmother), Gisela and Ignace, while Emmy dresses for the evening. In 1938, after the Anschluss, the Ephrussi palace on the Ringstrasse in Vienna is thoroughly rifled and pillaged by the Nazis. The family disperses across Europe & America. Fortunes are demolished & art collections become irretrievable. The netsuke are surreptitiously rescued and hidden by Anna, Emmy's servant of many years. Anna, about whom little is known, hides the netsuke in her mattress in the secret part of the house that has been the servants' quarters. After the war, she returns a suitcase full of these small precious objects to Elisabeth, who takes them with her to England, where she, her husband and children (Edmund's father Victor) and her father Viktor now reside. Thus, the netsuke come to be among the very few possessions to remain in a family whose collections of art and libraries of rare books were once legendary. From England the netsuke travel back to Japan in the company of Iggie, Elisabeth's younger brother, who ends up residing there under American occupation (he acquires & then relinquishes US citizenship) until his death in 1994. It is there, in his Great-Uncle Iggie's house in Tokyo, that Edmund first encounters the netsuke and it is to Edmund that the collection is bequeathed after Iggie's death. Once again, returning to London, the netsuke are on the move, much like the family in whose trust they have been for over 100 years, the diaspora of objects mirroring the diaspora of peoples, in particular that of Eastern and Central European Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries.
    I found it fascinating to contemplate the possibility of belonging to a family that one could research in archives, museums and libraries, for example a great-great uncle who socialized with Proust, Renoir, et al (an anti-Semite, as it turns out during the Dreyfus affair) among whom the netsuke would have been taken out, passed around and admired. The same ancestor, Charles Ephrussi is assumed to have been one of the model's for Proust's Charles Swann. Edmund's grandmother, Elisabeth, corresponded with the poet Rilke and graduated from the University of Vienna with a doctorate of law degree at a time when women were rarely even admitted to the University. Still, as de Waal seems to imply, it is impossible to know this family from the inside. The closest one comes perhaps is while reading a letter or a diary or while handling an object that someone has touched. Before her death, already an old woman, Elisabeth burns her correspondence with her mother Evelina. There are some things that are to remain forever private, she seems to say. Not to be broken into by nostalgia. So this is finally not THE story of a family, but A story of a family. There are gaps, silences and branches not explored. This is one legacy; there are necessarily multiple ones.





  • (5/5)
    Fascinating story of a family's collection of netsuke. Admittedly not as interesting to those not interested in Japanese culture or the cultural history of Japonisme, but still compelling in parts, including the Nazi's persecution of the wealthy.
  • (4/5)
    As someone who is into their genealogy, yet from a family of people who barely left their mark on the world, I found this book fascinating. It covers art history, the holocaust, how Jews had their works of art stolen and how the dispersed families managed to fit in their new countries, de Waal pays a great tribute to his ancestors: it is the kind of book I'd love to write about my ancestors.
  • (3/5)
    I really liked the second half of this book, but the first half was SO slow and it took me forever to really get into the story.
  • (5/5)
    Warning - spoilers!

    De Waal traces the roots of the 264 Japanese netsuke he inherited from his great uncle, Iggie. The netsuke begin in Japan, but quickly become intertwined with the history of the Ephrussi banking family. We follow the netsuke from Paris of the Belle Epoque and its obsession with Japonisme, where they interact with characters such as Proust, Manet, and Renoir, and of course, Charles Ephrussi himself. A facinating glimpse into many of the famous Jewish banking familes of this time, and a period in history that cannot be matched for its opulence. The netsuke are gifted by Charles to the Vienna scion of the family, where we then get a glipmse of fin de siecle wealthy Vienna in the years leading up to the World War. We observe how quickly life changes from WW1 to WW2, the rise of (blatant) anti Semitism, and the rise of the Nazi party. The fortunes of the netsuke and of the Ephrussi family are forever changed - as a reader, you can see the tragedy coming, of course, but are committed enough to the family and these objects to see it through. The Palais Ephrussi on the Ringstrasse is ransacked, all the treasures scattered to the wind under Aryanization, never to be recovered. The family itself suffers deaths and tragedies and evantually become refugees in England, the Netherlands and America. Few things survive, but miraculously, the netsuke do, smuggled out under the nose of the Nazis by the family's Gentile maid, Anna, who hides them in her mattress until the end of the war. They are eventually reunited with the family, and De Waal's Uncle Iggie takes them back to Tokyo, where he becomes a successful businessman in the postwar era. De Waal inherits them on his death, and they are now in his home in London, in a vitrine he purchased from the Albert Museum. De Waal is a ceramics artist, and his interest in the netsuke begin as interest in their artistic merits, but you can tell he quickly becomes obsessed with how these objects' history have intertwined with his family's own. He draws you right into the obsession with him. I highly recommend. The Paris section can get somewhat confusing, as every Comte and Comtesse has 57 different names, but the story is so compelling you muddle through. The netsuke "live" in 4 different eras - Paris, Vienna, Tokyo and London, and each time period is so fascinating you don't want to leave.
  • (4/5)
    It's easy to see why this book is a best seller: it has many different themes that could appeal to many different readers. It is a family history, a story about art, history, about cultural assimilation and belonging. It is about the importance of posssessions, the family artifacts we all have and the stories attached to them.The writing is excellent, subtle and moving.Like so many others, I add my disappontment at the lack of pictures: there isn't even one of the title har with amber eyes!
  • (3/5)
    A very well written family biography. A job well done by Edmund de Waal including the immersive research. Good that this potter turned writer had a fascinating family story to tell. And good that he didn't drown us with detail, anecdote and geneaology. He picked a good hook in his great uncle's netsuke collection and used it to fill out the personalities and events of four generations. Good also that he put things into historical context. How could we fail to be interested in characters who drank with the impressionists in Paris, lived through Hitler's persecution and war and ended up spread to all corners of the world.
  • (5/5)
    Wonderful book. I just re-read this for book group. I found the parts about Paris a little slow going, but then Vienna and Japan are fascinating and Paris is illuminated in conjunction with the later story. There is such a sense of place and time here and the author's ancestors become real people as we read about them. The author's investigation of his family's past is a personal journey for him. So many people are interested in their genealogy, but few have the wealth of historical resources that de Waal is able to locate. This book is a remarkable confluence of art, history and family, blessed with a man able and willing to spend the time to discover it and share it with us as readers.
  • (4/5)
    The Hare with Amber Eyes is part memoir, part travel log, part history book. It tells the story of a collection of small Japanese carvings called netsuke that de Waal inherits from his uncle and how they journey through the generations. It took me months to get through but the last few hours (I listened to it) were quite compelling. De Waal is the brother of one of my favorite Russophiles. What a talented family!
  • (5/5)
    This is a great book. de Waal is an heir of the Ephrussis, a Jewish banking family that was almost as rich as the Rothschilds. He inherits 264 netsuke, which are miniature Japanese carvings that used to close a purse or a robe.He then traces how these objects came to be, when they were bought, and how a lady servant took them away in front of the Nazis. His people are very colorful - Charles Ephrussi, the original buyer of the objects, was the model for Swann in Proust;s epic book and his uncle, who left him the netsuke, lived in Japan for many years with his boyfriend.
  • (5/5)
    What a surprising book! Using a collections of small Japanese carvings (netsuke) as a prop, the authors relates a family history of his wealthy Jewish family in Russia, France and Austria from the mid-19th century.I was a little dubious that such a structure could work, but the reviews I saw were uniformly positive. The reviews quoted in blurb on the book cover are even more laudatory - "the best book of the year", "a book of astonishing originality", and, possibly the most insightful comment, by Julian Barnes: "Unexpectedly combines a micro-craft form with macro history to great effect". (But the renown may be fading - the book was published in 2010, and I got my copy as a discounted remainder in 2013!)The author is a potter and his prose is just a little different - he likes to write of the tactile feel of things, and often refers to the "volume" of rooms where others may have commented on the high ceilings. But overall his different writing style is an asset not a liability. In writing a successful family memoir, it helps to have a memorable family. De Waal has this in spades! The first family member to own the netsuke, and thus to be described in detail, is a very wealthy art connoisseur who a significant early patron of Renoir - and who is depicted in "The Luncheon of the Boating Party" (in the suit at the back), and who is plausibly nominated as a basis for the character of Proust's Swann - and Proust was, of course, a close friend. But, for me, the book is at its best in describing the family in Vienna in the years before WW2. De Waal's great-grandfather and his family may not have been as famous or spectacular as the French connections, but their wealthy life before the rise of the Nazis, and the vignettes of the changes in their lives is especially moving. We all know what happened to Jewish people under Hitler, but in the same manner as Anne Frank, by focussing on one family, the awfulness of a regime is made more meaningful and comprehensible.This is simply a wonderful book. As one reviewer says: "The perfect book, one you feel compelled to give everyone . . . to sharewith them this treasure".Read December 2013.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this book for so many reasons...the writing was exceptional and the family members were fascinating. It provides a history of some of the most interesting artists and their work. What a journey this must have been for Edmund de Waal!! I only wish there had been more photographs in the book. I strongly recommend it to any/all readers with an interest in art and in the families that amassed and then lost so much of it.
  • (3/5)
    The author, Edmund de Waal, becomes the 5th generation in his family to inherit a large collection of Japanese netsuke, small wood and ivory figurines. The collection, obtained by the family in the late 1800's, have an interesting past, including traveling from Japan, to Paris and to Vienna. The book traces not only the path of the art objects, but also follows the family's history, from being one of the most influential and wealthy families in Europe to their downfall when the Germans invade Austria during WWII.

    Although the writing in the book was easy to read and very descriptive. I felt that de Waal spent too much time covering his research process and what he did in the present to dig up his family's past. This was my bookclub's selection for October and although not everyone loved the book, it did spark some interesting conversation about anti-Semitism throughout the ages.
  • (5/5)
    I love this book and would recommend it to lots of people. An interesting look at history through a family and objects that have been passed from one generation to the next.
  • (5/5)
    I'm cautious about reviewing this book, but need to say first of all that I found it gripping and fascinating. Occasionally the authorial voice irritated me slightly, in that he seemed to be striking attitudes with regard to the material that he was presenting. I suppose that he was afraid of falling into the traps of nostalgia and sentimentality which can lie in wait for anyone attempting to write about fin de siecle Vienna or Paris, especially with regard to the Jewish families that lived there.
    I thought he managed to avoid sentimentality very successfully. When at the time of the Anschluss Viktor and Emmy Ephrussi were suddenly dispossessed of everything in a few hours, the shock to this reader was almost unbearable. I had to stop reading the book for a few days. Edmond de Waal had managed to make his ancestors not only interesting but likeable, and so when the (expected) shock arrived, its impact was more than a reiteration of standard tropes of the Holocaust.
    I'm rather haunted by the netsuke themselves! It seemed to me that de Waal was struggling to understand various different cultures - 19th century Europe and Japan both post-war and historical - and what made good reading were his attempts at understanding without resorting to easy shorthand.
    I loved the book and hope I can read it again. It is quite maddening that someone such as Edmond de Waal can not only make wonderful pots but also turn his hand to writing so beautifully. So I recommnd it without hesitation - go and read!
  • (4/5)
    While this book is primarily about the provenance of a netsuke collection, it is also a biography of the author's family. De Waal's paternal grandmother was an Ephrussi, a European Jewish banking family. The family's patriarch started out as a grain merchant in Odessa. By the time of his death, one of his sons headed a Parisian branch of the Ephrussi bank while another son headed the Viennese branch of the bank. Charles Ephrussi, of the Parisian branch of the family, was not expected to join the family business since he was a younger son. He developed a passion for art, becoming an art critic and rubbing shoulders with impressionists including Renoir and literary figures including Proust. Proust's Swann is partially based on Charles Ephrussi. While the Parisian art world was captivated by Japonisme, Charles purchased a collection of netsuke – small, intricate ivory or boxwood carvings.Near the turn of the 20th century, Charles's Viennese cousin, Viktor, was getting married. The netsuke collection was Charles's wedding gift to Viktor and his bride, Emmy, who were de Waal's great-grandparents. At this point, de Waal's narrative shifts to Vienna and the history of this branch of the Ephrussi family. De Waal's grandmother, Viktor and Emmy's eldest daughter, grew up in the Palais Ephrussi on Vienna's Ring. The Ephrussis lived in the Palais through one World War, but were forced out of their home when Austria was Aryanized in 1938. While most of the family's possessions were lost, never to be recovered, the netsuke collection remained in the family and is currently in the author's possession. You'll need to read the book to find out how the netsuke were spared!This book reminds me of Thomas Harding's The House by the Lake. Both Harding and de Waal are English grandchildren of a Jewish woman whose family lost their home and possessions to the Nazis in the 1930s. The family history is a secondary focus in both books; Harding's book explores the history of a house his great-grandfather built as a vacation home, while de Waal's book explores the history of a family heirloom.The illustrated edition of this book is filled with mostly color photographs, facsimiles, and art reproductions, and photographs of the netsuke on the end papers. Without the illustrations, I probably would have been constantly pausing to Google something mentioned in the text. I recommend this edition to other readers with the caveat that it's a book best read at home. The book is printed on high-quality glossy paper, which does justice to the illustrations but makes the book too heavy to be easily portable.