A deeply moving memoir about a young boy growing up in Dublin and his family's homesickness for a country they can call their own.
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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Why is it that Irish childhoods are somehow more interesting than any other? The Speckled People is yet another tale of rough and tumble childhood in Ireland in the 1950s. Instead of the hard-drinking, lovable father and weak abandoned mother of Frank McCourt's boyhood we're given the odd mix of an Irish nationalist father married to a German immigrant with a Nazi past. The premise seems to be rich and wide, but the whole book turns out to be rather intimate and personal. This is less a comment on Ireland and Germany after the war and more Hugo Hamilton's youthful journey of self discovery.
Hamilton writes in a style that can best be called "Irish immediate". Everything happens in the first person with a sudden awareness and blunt description. This style is charming at first, but wearing with time. Nevertheless, the narrator's exploration of his secret past, his comic boyhood adventures and conflicts captivate the reader, and one is carried away by the story. The interplay between the fierce Irish nationalism and the German identity of the narrator's mother is interesting, but they are only the outward sign of an inward discovery as the narrator strives to understand himself. As in any cross-cultural clash, the conflict ends in a fresh synthesis. So Hugo discovers his own identity and realises that he does not have to be either German or Irish, but a unique blend of both. --Dwight LongeneckerReview:
'A wonderful book … thoughtful and compelling, smart and original, beautifully written … Hamilton has done an awful lot more with his strange and oddly beautiful childhood than just write it down.'
Nick Hornby, Sunday Times
'This story about a battle over language and defeat 'in the language wars' is also a victory for eloquent writing, crafty and cunning in its apparent simplicity.'
Hermione Lee, Guardian
'Early as it is to risk a judgment, it is hard to believe that this year will produce many books as memorable or moving as this.'
Roy Foster, The Times
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Book Description Harper Collins, 2003. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition... NEW YORK: Fourth Estate / Harper (20037). First edition, first printing. Hardbound. NEW. Fine in a fine dust jacket. A tight, clean copy, unread. NOT price-clipped. Comes with archival-quality mylar dust jacket protector. Shipped in well padded box. Bookseller Inventory # Ferry-05
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