Firsts Hugo Hamilton Speckled People

ISBN 13: 9780007149988

Speckled People

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9780007149988: Speckled People

The childhood world of Hugo Hamilton is a confused place: His father, a brutal Irish nationalist, demands his children speak Gaelic at home whilst his mother, a softly spoken German emigrant who escaped Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war, encourages them to speak German. All Hugo wants to do is speak English. English is, after all, what the other children in Dublin speak. English is what they use when they hunt down Hugo (or 'Eichmann' as they dub him) in the streets of Dublin, and English is what they use when they bring him to trial and execute him at a mock seaside court. Out of this fear and confusion Hugo tries to build a balanced view of the world, to turn the twisted logic of what he is told into truth. It is a journey that ends in liberation but not before this little boy has uncovered the dark and long-buried secrets that lie at the bottom of his parents' wardrobe.In one of the finest books to have emerged from Ireland since Patrick McCabe's THE BUTCHER BOY and Seamus Deane's READING IN THE DARK, acclaimed novelist Hugo Hamilton has finally written his own story.

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Review:

The son of a German mother and an Irish father, Hugo Hamilton grew up in Dublin in the 1950s wearing "lederhosen and Aran sweaters, smelling of rough wool and new leather, Irish on top and German below." His family spoke both German and Irish, but English was strictly forbidden--even uttering a few words of the cursed language was enough to earn an often brutal punishment from their father, a staunch Irish nationalist. His father maintained that "your home is your language" and insisted that they be a model Irish family and an example for others to follow. Hamilton and his siblings were not even permitted to play with children who did not speak Irish exclusively--a particular problem in a country where English is the primary language. Ironically, he was taunted mercilessly for his German heritage and children jeered him with cries of "Eichmann" and "Heil Hitler." He was even put on "trial" once by a gang of kids who sentenced him death by snowball firing squad. This confusing quest to discover his identity and to gain an understanding of his family history is at the heart of The Speckled People, a profoundly touching and beautifully written memoir.

His parents' secrecy concerning their own pasts only exacerbated his frustration, forcing Hamilton to cling to fragments of information gleaned secretly from hidden photographs and buried family relics. Written from the perspective of a child, Hamilton captures his feelings of confusion, guilt, and fear convincingly and with much humor and insight. Full of poetic passages, sharp observations, and the kind of subtle epiphanies that are best expressed by a child, the book is a joy to read. "When you're small you know nothing and when you grow up there are things you don't want to know," he writes. This memoir is Hamilton's attempt to reconcile the two. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

In his first novel since the bestselling memoir The Speckled People, Hugo Hamilton has created a truly compelling story of lost identity and a remarkable reflection on the ambiguity of belonging.

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Hamilton, Hugo
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