The Hare With Amber Eyes, By Edmund de Waal

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The Independent Culture

As a young man the ceramicist, Edmund de Waal was fascinated by a set of Japanese thimble-sized figurines ("netsuke") kept by his great-uncle Iggie in a locked vitrine in his Tokyo apartment.

When later he inherited the collection, he found that the carvings provided the key to an unexpectedly rich family history.

The result is this gently erudite and personable memoir tracing the author's Jewish ancestry from fin de siècle Paris, where his artistic forebear Charles Ephrussi first acquired the figurines as a gift for his mistress, to occupied Vienna - where the "netsuke" were hidden under a maid's mattress for the duration of the war. In Neil MacGregor-esque style, he meditates on the history of well-travelled objects.