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The Speckled People: A Memoir of a Half-Irish Childhoodby 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
"Hamilton writes well and knows the secrets of narrative propulsion, but his story does not always engage or convince." Kirkus Reviews
"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
"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 memoir of childhood that often reads like a craftily composed work of fiction." Daily Telegraph (London)
"Evocative, agitating and inspiriting, Speckled People sticks up for diversity and principled dissent...extending the scope of Irish memoir." The Independent (U.K.)
"Hamilton's most successful book to date, after building up a fine reputation as a novelist." Irish Voice
"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
"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
"We wear Aran Sweaters and Lederhosen. We are forbidden from speaking English. We are trapped in a language war. We are the Speckled People." In one of the most original memoirs to emerge in years, Hugo Hamilton tells the haunting story of his German-Irish childhood in 1950s Dublin. His Gaelic-speaking, Irish nationalist father rules the home with tyranny, while his German-speaking mother rescues her children with cakes and stories of her own struggle against Nazi Germany. Out on the streets of Dublin is another country, where they are taunted as Nazis and subjected to a mock Nuremberg trial. Through the eyes of a child, this rare and shockingly honest book gradually makes sense of family, language, and identity, unlocking at last the secrets that his parents kept in the wardrobe.
About the Author
Elizabeth Chandler has written picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, and young adult romances (including the popular Kissed By an Angel trilogy) under a variety of names. As Mary Claire Helldorfer, she lives in Baltimore, MD, and loves stories, cats, baseball, and Bob—not necessarily in that order.
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