The Hare with the Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal 2010

A powerful family saga written by a London potter who traces the Ephrussi family from its roots as grain merchants in Odessa in the mid-19th C, to their rise as a financial empire in Paris, Vienna, and St. Petersburg, and to their near elimination in Hitler’s  Holocaust.  The vehicle for the story line is a collection of 264 netsukes, initially brought in Paris by Charles, son of Leon, and given as a wedding present in 1899 to his cousin, Viktor, great grandfather of the author.  The netsukes are rescued from the Gestapo by his great-grandmother Emmy’s maid, Anna, and given to his grandmother, Elizabeth when she visits post WWII-Vienna in an attempt to regain some portion of the family’s material wealth.  The netsukes go from Elizabeth to her brother, Ignace (Uncle Iggy) who fought with the US in WWII Europe and who goes to Japan during the occupation as a businessman.  Iggy returns the netsukes to their native land before willing them to the author upon his death in 1994 in Tokyo.  A truly heartbreaking story about the transience and insecurity of life, wealth, power and glory and an emotionally searing description of how Vienna’s Jews lost their lives and their world in an instant in  March, 1938.  This book is a real jewel. It won the Costa award for biography in 2010.