So, for my first read of my Mother’s #bedsidebooks, I chose what I thought would be the easiest one to get through. Short answer, it wasn’t easy. The first third was a real struggle. But, there were gems in amongst the struggle and I could see how it was wonderful really, just not quite me. The next two thirds I found less taxing, and I ended the book having overall enjoyed it.
I read The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal.
It is a work of historical research into the author’s own family history through a collection of Japanese 19th century (or older) netsuke. I remember it being a very popular book club read when it came out and had had it on my Amazon Wishlist for some time.
We had three or four ivory netsuke in our family growing up (still have I guess) and what charmed me about them was always the size. They seemed so perfect for playing with as a child. I therefore found the part of the story where they did similar to this particularly enjoyable.
The book had a vast amount of references to pieces of art and people who actually exist. I read it as a physical book, but actually think that it requires you to have Google to hand so that you can search up the paintings or pieces being referred to so that you can have a picture in your head. Perhaps there is a more illustrated edition already in print. I’m sure many more learned people than I would know what the art was without this, but I didn’t. Edmund de Waal assumes a certain amount of prior knowledge from the reader, and it is this that I think may intimidate readers out of reading the book.
One thing I also lacked from reading it in physical form was the handy ability to press on a word to get the dictionary definition. I like to think myself fairly knowledgeable of the English language, but this book sure had some doozies of random words I’d never heard of! Maybe I’m alone here in my ignorance. Some examples I found notably incomprehensible till googled were:
Strangely enough, I don’t think any of these words will be making it into my everyday vocabulary anytime soon.
I was pleased (and ashamed I hadn’t really known already as well) that I learnt the true meaning of the Anschluss in Europe in 1938. A word I’d heard and vaguely, but not fully, comprehended. The delicate and clever interweaving of the history of such a tumultuous time period in Europe was quite gripping. The story of the netsukes’ life is heartwarming and heartbreaking in turns.
I feel good that I read this book. Sometimes we have to “read harder” than we do usually, and what I learnt about in this book and the intriguing story was worth it in the end.
One #bedside book down, 15 to go! Thanks, Mum.