The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 27 Apr 2016
The Hare with Amber Eyes was somewhat a diversion from the usual readings on WW2. In fact, I was not even sure whether I would write a review for it on WW2DB. While my initial feelings were more or less correct in that the WW2 period was but a backdrop for the book, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
The Ephrussi family made its initial fortunes in the grain trade in Eastern Europe. By the time the family branched out to Paris, France and Vienna, Austria, and as the family moved into the world of high finance, it had become one of the wealthiest families in Europe. The author, a descendent of the Ephrussis family through his grandmother Elisabeth Ephrussi, became interested in his family history as his great uncle Ignace von Ephrussi showed him a collection of Japanese nesuke sculptures, which was among the very few things that had remained from the family's glorious past. Through his two-year research and travel, he rediscovered the Ephrussi connection to Pierre-Auguste Renoir, to Marcel Proust, and other figures of renown. As a student of WW2 history, I paid particularly attention to his family's experience through the annexation of Austria, which marked the beginning of the family's sharp decline. As Ignace von Ephrussi settled in post-war Japan, his perspective of the seven-year American occupation of Japan also interested me. From these small nesuke collectibles, the author expanded the book far and wide, yet he was always successful in reining himself in before his thoughts drifted too far. He demonstrated himself as an expert storyteller, balancing perfectly between beautiful narratives and intimate family portraits.
"I'm wrong. This family is not erased, but written over. And finally, it is this that makes me cry."
Through passages such as the above, he simultaneously told of his family history in the Nazi-era, convoyed his rush of emotions while sitting in a modern Vienna archive studying Nazi-era documents, and displayed his mastery of the written word.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Reader Micheal Maloney did an excellent job with the reading, his performance fitting the author's storytelling, and his appropriate accents brought out the author's narrative nuances.
From the perspective of a WW2 history enthusiast, The Hare with Amber Eyes brought to the table the story of a family's decline as Europe fell under the grasp of Nazi German control, with a small taste of the family's view on the occupation of Japan. The narratives were told in decorative and thought-provoking manner. While the Ephrussi family's name might have faded, its experience was indeed worth remembering.
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