Kerri's book pick this week is Edmund de Waal's "The Hare with Amber Eyes," an intriguing mix of memoir and detective story.
De Waal's family was once one of the wealthiest in Europe: The Ephrussi were a 19th-century banking dynasty with an extensive art collection and priceless masterpieces. But when the Nazis seized control of their property in the 1930s, they lost everything. Or, almost everything.
One rare collection survived, tucked away in a mattress by a maid. She hid the family's collection of 264 tiny "netsuke" — Japanese carvings made from ivory and wood.
When de Waal, a celebrated ceramicist, inherited the collection, he found himself obsessed with the origin of each piece. Where had they come from? Who had held them? And how did they make their way to him? De Waal uses the story of each netsuke to unwind five generations of his own family's history.
From The Washington Post:
"'The Hare With Amber Eyes' belongs on the same shelf with Vladimir Nabokov's 'Speak, Memory,' Andre Aciman's 'Out of Egypt"' and Sybille Bedford's 'A Legacy.' All four are wistful cantos of mutability, depictions of how even the lofty, beautiful and fabulously wealthy can crack and shatter as easily as Faberge glass or Meissen porcelain -- or, sometimes, be as tough and enduring as netsuke, those little Japanese figurines carved out of ivory or boxwood."
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!