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The Speckled People: A Memoirby Hugo Hamilton
Synopses & Reviews
As a young boy, growing up in Dublin, Hugo Hamilton struggles with the question of what it means to be speckled. The speckled people are, in his father's words, "the new Irish, partly from Ireland, partly from somewhere else." His father, a fierce nationalist, demands that his children speak Irish. His mother, a soft-spoken woman marked by her family's refusal to accept Nazi anti-Semitism, talks to her children in the language of her homeland, Germany. Hugo wants to speak English. English is, after all, what all the other children in Dublin speak. English is what they use when they hunt him down in the streets and call him "Eichmann," as they bring him to trial and sentence him to death at a mock seaside court.
Surrounded by fear, guilt, and frequently comic cultural entanglements, Hugo tries to understand the differences between Irish history and German history and to turn the strange logic of what he is told into truth. It is a journey that ends in liberation but not before the long-buried secrets at the back of the parents' wardrobe have been laid bare.
In one of the finest books to have emerged from Ireland in many years, the acclaimed novelist Hugo Hamilton has finally written his own story — a deeply moving memoir about a family's homesickness for a country they can call their own.
"[A] beautiful memoir....There is much in this Irish memoir that's familiar to the genre....But the book is never cliched, thanks largely to Hamilton's frankly poetic language and masterful portrait of childhood....By turns lyrical and elegiac, this memoir is an absorbing record of a unique childhood and a vanishing heritage." Publishers Weekly
"The rare quality of this memoir owes much to [Hamilton's] novelistic skills, not least his handling of the child's point of view throughout, with its luminously comprehending attentiveness to adult behavior....[T]he cumulative effect is to elevate an act of scrupulous remembering into a work of art." The New York Times Book Review
"A fine reminder that there are many ways of being Irish." New York Newsday
"A beautifully written book, full of shrewd observation and poetic expression." Irish Times
"Hamilton's most successful book to date, after building up a fine reputation as a novelist." Irish Voice
"Evocative, agitating and inspiriting, Speckled People sticks up for diversity and principled dissent...extending the scope of Irish memoir." The Independent (U.K.)
"A memoir of childhood that often reads like a craftily composed work of fiction." Daily Telegraph (London)
"A terrific achievement, thoughtful and compelling, smart and original, beautifully written." Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity and About a Boy
"An astonishing account, both delicate and strong, of great issues of twentieth-century Europe, modern Ireland, and family everywhere." Nuala O'Faolain, author of Are You Somebody? and My Dream of You
"The most gripping book I've read in ages...a fascinating, disturbing and often very funny memoir." Roddy Doyle, author of The Commitments and A Star Called Henry
"A prize — delicate, achingly well-observed and wonderfully moving." A.L. Kennedy, author of Everything You Need and Original Bliss
"A masterful piece of work — timely, inventive, provocative and perfectly weighted. Don't be surprised if it becomes a classic." Colum McCann, author of Dancer and This Side of Brightness
In one of the finest books to emerge from Ireland in many years, acclaimed novelist Hamilton has written a deeply moving memoir about a 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.
About the Author
Hugo Hamilton was born in 1953. He has published five novels and a collection of short stories. He lives in Dublin and has recently spent a year in Berlin as a writer-in-residence.
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