8 reviews

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
by Edmund de Waal

Published: 2011-08-02
Paperback : 354 pages
6 members reading this now
32 clubs reading this now
4 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 8 members

A New York Times Bestseller

An Economist Book of the Year

Costa Book Award Winner for Biography

Galaxy National Book Award Winner (New Writer of the Year Award)

Edmund de Waal is a world-famous ceramicist. Having spent thirty years making beautiful pots?which are then sold, collected, and ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to


A New York Times Bestseller

An Economist Book of the Year

Costa Book Award Winner for Biography

Galaxy National Book Award Winner (New Writer of the Year Award)

Edmund de Waal is a world-famous ceramicist. Having spent thirty years making beautiful pots?which are then sold, collected, and handed on?he has a particular sense of the secret lives of objects. When he inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings, called netsuke, he wanted to know who had touched and held them, and how the collection had managed to survive.

And so begins this extraordinarily moving memoir and detective story as de Waal discovers both the story of the netsuke and of his family, the Ephrussis, over five generations. A nineteenth-century banking dynasty in Paris and Vienna, the Ephrussis were as rich and respected as the Rothchilds. Yet by the end of the World War II, when the netsuke were hidden from the Nazis in Vienna, this collection of very small carvings was all that remained of their vast empire.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


The Hare with Amber Eyes


One sunny April day I set out to find Charles. Rue de Monceau is a long Parisian street bisected by the grand boulevard Malesherbes that charges off towards the boulevard Pereire. It is a hill of golden stone houses, a series of hotels playing discreetly on neoclassical themes, each a minor Florentine palace with heavily rusticated ground floors and an array of heads, caryatids and cartouches. Number 81 rue de Monceau, the Hôtel Ephrussi, where my netsuke start their journey, is near the top of the hill. I pass the headquarters of Christian Lacroix and then, next door, there it is. It is now, rather crushingly, an office for medical insurance. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1) Edmund de Waal states in the interview above that he found himself particularly charmed
by Charles during his research. Who was your favourite character in the book and why?
2) Much of The Hare with Amber Eyes is about trying to discover who people are by the
objects they own and the objects they value. Do you think this is a good way to find out about people?
3) Do you have any inherited objects? What stories do they tell?
4) What do your favourite belongings say about you, and what conclusions do you think would
be drawn if one of your descendants investigated you in this way?
5) Why do you think Edmund de Waal was unable to trace Anna?
6) In the interview above, Edmund de Waal says, ‘Objects need biography – there aren’t many
books out there that take objects themselves seriously.’ What do you think he means by this, and do
you agree?
7) Some non-fiction history books fill in the gaps in available evidence by reconstructing the
past, for example, by imagining possible conversations and thoughts. Edmund de Waal mainly
avoids this, and concentrates on giving the reader concrete facts or relating first-hand anecdotes.
Which technique do you prefer?
8) Have you ever tried to trace your own family history? If so, what did you find?
9) In his Guardian essay, de Waal closes with a series of questions: ‘What did these small things
mean? Why does touch matter? And what survives?’ What do you think?
10) The online resources listed below give links to galleries of the netsuke. Which netsuke
appeals to you most? Would you have entitled the book The Hare with Amber Eyes, or something
completely different?

From the publisher

Suggested by Members

Why do the Jewish people continue to be treated poorly & exiled after moving into countries, learning to speak their languages perfectly, contributing their hard work, wealth, intelligence & enriching & making the adopted culture better? Why are they take
What about the netsuke appealed to the author, who is a reknown ceramicist & artist in his own right?
What parallels do the hidden inheritance & intrinsic hidden qualities of the netsuke share? Why did Edmund de Waal choose the hare with amber eyes for the title instead of the most expensive netsuke, the crouching tiger flashing his tale?
by Livres4moi (see profile) 01/25/15

Compare the Ehrussi family history to that of the Rothschilds.
by sarasikes (see profile) 09/05/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

great idea
by kathywlewis (see profile) 04/21/15
One of our members suggested we all bring an item we had inherited from a family member. this was a great bonding experience and fascinating to hear about other family treasures - dear to our hearts but not of great monetary value.
If possible, break it up into 4 meetings/discussions, one for each part of the book.
by Livres4moi (see profile) 01/25/15
Prepare by researching history of Japanese art in general (small islands, small homes & spaces, small walls in homes, etc.) & small, palm-sized netsuke works of art in particular. Be sure to read the introduction; look up Yanagi, Japanisme, black/gold lacquer boxes,etc. Visit a museum that has some on display, or ask members who own any to please bring them to share & feel the essence of netsuke. You-Tube the author & google photos of netsuke before you read.
An Enchanting Story about Ancestors
by sarasikes (see profile) 09/05/13
Serve some dumplings

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "The Hare With the Amber Eyes"by Denise P. (see profile) 12/05/17

  "The Hare with the amber eyes"by Martha T. (see profile) 03/09/16

It was very informative. Parts were interesting and showed us what life of rich Jews was like in the early 1900's in Vienna, Paris, and later Japan.
Many art references.

  "The Hare with Amber Eyes"by Katherine L. (see profile) 04/21/15

Non-fiction, well researched, historical account, family story, not for the fluffy reader! An intellectual read.

  "Some parts were OK . . . "by Carol S. (see profile) 04/21/15

This book drags through the first 1/3, and then picks up with the war years. I found it to be pedantic and just a chronicle of a family without any embellishments. Discussion points about this book... (read more)

  "The Hare with Amber Eyes"by Gwen M. (see profile) 01/25/15

Sensitively, scholarly & brilliantly written through thorough, exhaustive research over >2 years. This is NOT an easy book to read, especially Part II, which left me emotionally & physically exhausted,... (read more)

  "The Hare with theAmber Eyes"by Anne B. (see profile) 01/25/15

Since I lived at the time of WW 2 and have visited Vienna I appreciated the work of the author bringing to life history.

by bonnie c. (see profile) 05/16/14

  "The Hare with the Amber Eyes"by sara s. (see profile) 09/05/13

A bit of a slow start since I'm not interested in ceramics much, but then I was hooked on the family story. Beautiful writing about real events and people in a different way, without footno... (read more)

Rate this book
Remember me

Now serving over 80,000 book clubs & ready to welcome yours. Join us and get the Top Book Club Picks of 2022 (so far).



Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...