April Book Club Read
I was looking forward to reading this book and it certainly didn't disappoint me. At the end of it I feel rather emotional. This is the story of a collection of 264 Netsuke (among them a Hare with Amber eyes), how they came into Edmund's family. But it's more that that - it's the story of a family, once fabulously wealthy. How they contributed to the cultural environment they lived in (commissioning works by Renoir for example). How they lost everything and were scattered around the world.
Last month's book for book club was [b:The Glass Room|2694539|The Glass Room|Simon Mawer|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41wESHL5jxL._SL75_.jpg|2719868], which I found rather cold. This book shares similar themes of Anti Semitism and War, as Edmund's family (the Ephrussi family) becomes targets of hatred in both Paris and Vienna. The story follows them through the end of the nineteenth century, then through the first and second world wars up to present day.
I was particularly touched by the story of his Great Grandparents, Viktor and Emmy, who receive the Netsuke as a wedding present from Viktors favourite Uncle (who originally bought the Netsuke into the family). Emmy clearly didn't marry for love, though she did have 4 children. I was incredibly moved by their story, the desparate attempt to leave Austria before the second world war. The author doesn't shy away from the difficult aspects of his family - how Viktor decided against transferring his considerable wealth to Switzerland with terrible results. Of Emmy's suicide, believing they would never escape from the Reich. How their maid squirrelled away the nesuke while the house was occupied by the Gestapo and hid them in the mattress of her bed. The netsuke are on the constant in the story.
It makes me realise how little I know about my own family. How the only thing I have of my Mothers Parents is a King James Bible that my mother found when clearing out their house a few years ago. Of a few photographs taken when they went on a cruise that finished in New York (some of the Twin Towers). My mother also came across photographs taken by my grandfather when he was stationed in India - photographs my mother wouldn't let me see, as some contained severed heads on pikes in the desert. How I never knew my Fathers Mother.
There are whole lifetimes that we know nothing about - so many missed chances to learn.
This book is beautiful written and an absolute joy to read.