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The Harbor Boys: A Memoirby Hugo Hamilton
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of The Speckled People, one of the most lyrical and powerful memoirs of recent times, comes an exploration of another crucial moment in his early life: the summer he spent working at a harbor close to his home in Dublin, at a time of tremendous unrest.
As a boy, Hugo Hamilton felt a strong desire "to have no past behind me," to be rid of the confused identity he had inherited from his German mother and Irish father, and to cut the tether that connected him to their collective memory. But listening to stories of his mother's shame at the hands of Allied soldiers in the aftermath of the Second World War, along with his German cousin's mysterious disappearance somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, he felt the strengthening of history's determined grip.
A job at the harbor, rather than offering him respite, entangled him in a bitter feud between two fishermen—one Catholic, one Protestant. Against the background of the spiraling troubles in the North, Hugo listened to the missing persons bulletins going out on the radio for his cousin and watched as the unfolding harbor duel moved toward a tragic end.
The Harbor Boys, deeply moving and well observed, brilliantly charts a young man as he battles inheritance and struggles to place himself in a world of his own making.
"There's no waking from the nightmare of history in this haunting — and sometimes heavy-handed — follow-up to Hamilton's prize-winning memoir, The Speckled People. The author's coming-of-age in 1960s Dublin is dominated by his mother and father, she an anti-Nazi German immigrant, he an ardent Irish nationalist who bans the English language from their home. In this household, every conversation comes shackled to politics and tragedy — Hamilton's parents even compare Beatlemania to Nazism. No wonder the lad develops a Dostoyevskian guilt complex, forever imagining himself complicit in crimes he didn't commit, and longs 'to have no past... no conscience and no memory.' He escapes to a harbor-front job, but even there the Troubles loom when his Catholic boss feuds with a Protestant fisherman. The story often sags under the author's determination to set everyday happenings in dire historical context: when Hamilton fishes out a pal who fell into the harbor while retrieving a lobster pot, he immediately wishes, 'I could bring others back as well... even those who died in Northern Ireland, even those who died in the Irish famine, or those who had been murdered in the Ukraine.' But at his best, Hamilton writes with a wonderfully evocative feeling for character and landscape that brings to life the Ireland he grew up in." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Hugo Hamilton was born in 1953. He has published five novels, a collection of short stories, and the memoir The Speckled People. He lives in Dublin.
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