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 Longenecker
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'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
‘An extraordinary achievement … a wonderful, subtle, problematic and humane book. It is about Ireland as well as about a particular family, but it is also about alternatives and complexities anywhere. It is about the speckled nature of the world, which, for all its violence, remains fresh to its perceivers.'
George Szirtes, Irish Times
'The Speckled People is poetic in its language and construction, lyrical in so many of its descriptions. There is a story full of several different kinds of passion with a real tragedy at its heart. The pain is all there, but so is its antidote.’
‘Donner und Blitzen! What the Jaysus! A memoir of warmth and wisdom. And at last a good – if flawed – Irish father. A beautiful German mother. And not too much rain. It is tender and profound and, best of all, tells the truth. I loved it.'
'A fine and timely book from an exquisitely gifted writer, this is beautiful, subtle, unflashy, perfectly realised and quite extraordinarily powerful.'