This book reminded a little of the movie The Red Violin, in that it begins with a small collection of Japanese art pieces – netsuke – and the author relates the journey of this particular collection, from it’s acquisition by his ancestor in the 1800’s, to the present day.
What makes this non-fiction work extremely poignant, is that it is comprised of Edmund de Waal’s own family history, of a wealthy, aristocratic Jewish family. From Russia, Austria, France, England, the United States and Japan, de Waal takes us on an adventure that is both fascinating and heartbreaking.
I absolutely loved the detail the author gives about the art – not just the netsuke, but the collections began by his ancestors, and his own thoughts on this. Edmund de Waal is a famed artist in his own right, known for his ceramics. It is this keen insight into the beauty of things and it’s connection to people and history, that takes this book to another level.
I am so glad the author took the time to investigate the journey of his family’s netsuke, and even more honored that he decided to publish this work. These pieces, and his family, should not be forgotten.
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2010