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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Cruelty
So intricate and crafted is the prose in this novel it is a shock that you realise that its theme is cruelty, emotional and physical that is replicated through generations. It is the most insecure characters, the hero Sam included, who can cause most hurt just as the residue of colonialism causes tension and fragmentation in Ceylonese society
There are moments - many...
Published on 30 Jan 2004 by Mr. Jonathan Pratt

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose, weak narrative
The Hamilton Case relates, in polished, lyrical style, the life story of an isolated, arrogant and moderately successful Ceylonese lawyer, Stanley Obeysekere. It is not a pleasant life story either - his reckless and feckless father is overshadowed by his detached and dysfunctional mother, his career marred by his overweening ambition, damaging jealousies and intransient...
Published on 1 Dec 2007 by BookAddictUK


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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Cruelty, 30 Jan 2004
By 
Mr. Jonathan Pratt "japratt2" (Cambridgeshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Paperback)
So intricate and crafted is the prose in this novel it is a shock that you realise that its theme is cruelty, emotional and physical that is replicated through generations. It is the most insecure characters, the hero Sam included, who can cause most hurt just as the residue of colonialism causes tension and fragmentation in Ceylonese society
There are moments - many - in this novel when you feel that the author has expressed an idea or understanding that you have felt but never articulated and the reader is both grateful and full of admiration for the writer's skill.
The book is also about how we try to make narratives out of the chaotic events of our lives and as a narrative it excels.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a rare treat, 8 Oct 2008
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F. Scott "Himawari" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Paperback)
This book is one of those rare gifts where you pick it up not expecting much, only to find a novel with astonishingly beautiful prose and use of language and a story that you don't want to end. It is reminiscent of Marquez and Allende at her best, as well as Conrad in the way it captures the pulsating vegetation threating to overtake hard-won civilization on a small island, but also very new as it captures a different country and series of events. I would recommend this book to anyone and it will become a staple gift to other book lovers. I have not read a book that I enjoyed so much in a long time.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose, weak narrative, 1 Dec 2007
This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Paperback)
The Hamilton Case relates, in polished, lyrical style, the life story of an isolated, arrogant and moderately successful Ceylonese lawyer, Stanley Obeysekere. It is not a pleasant life story either - his reckless and feckless father is overshadowed by his detached and dysfunctional mother, his career marred by his overweening ambition, damaging jealousies and intransient intolerance, and his ability to form rewarding relationships with others undermined by his obsession and his guilt surrounding his curiously under-developed sister.

The glory of this novel lies in its prose - musicality drips off every page, so much so that one is lulled into a false sense of beauty and often has to re-read a paragraph just to make sure that such finely crafted words really could have said something so horrific. The story - even the action surround the Hamilton case, the murder of white farmer, in which Stanley makes his name - is consistently understated and the delivery always deviously subtle. The substance of the story itself though is insipid and, frankly, dull. It's a shame that such fine words have been wasted on something so insubstantial: it's all sugar and no meat. I cannot understand how this book could have won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, but it did.
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4.0 out of 5 stars How things might have been different, 25 July 2013
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Kindle Edition)
Although unlikeable in many respects and clearly an unreliable narrator, as in the portrayal of his charismatic rival Jaya, Stanley Alban Marriott Obeysekere, nicknamed "Sam", gripped me from the first page with his account of growing up in the early C20 as the grandson of a "mudaliyar" who had gained wealth and influence by assisting the British colonial administration of Ceylon. A successful lawyer with hopes of being the first "native" to be appointed as a judge by the British, Sam's decision to involve himself in "The Hamilton Case" has unforeseen consequences. In all this he remains wedded to his perception of the British way of life: "his veins have run with Bovril".

From the outset, an unexpected wry or brutal observation hits home, as when we are told how Sam's grandfather met his death after gallantly leaping into a lake to save a young English girl who had fallen overboard. In "extreme distress at seeing her ... a sweet girl on the threshold of womanhood, being manhandled by a native," a friend "in understandable terror, confusion and distress...brought her oar crashing down" on his skull. For this she was of course absolved of all blame.

On reaching Part 3, I seemed to have strayed into a different book which had lost the plot. The short chapters cease to be so alluring as they flit between characters: Sam's eccentric mother, his wife, son, several servants, etcetera. Substance gives way to form, in a style that begins to pall - too wordy and contrived, over-poetical. Sometimes the prose is beautiful and striking, but too often it appears self-indulgent padding.

The book would have been strengthened by more frequent, ongoing release of information, "true" or otherwise, about "The Hamilton Case", the personality of Sam's enigmatic sister Claudia and the nature of their relationship, to establish these aspects as key underlying threads.

De Kretser has been original and ambitious in seeking to work on several levels to produce: a "good yarn" reminiscent of Somerset Maugham; a whodunnit; an exploration of a complex family; an examination of the cultural effects of colonialism. This even extends to capturing Sam's "perfect mimicry" of the British in such a phrase as, "in cahoots with some ne'er-do-wells". As a colleague bitterly observes, "at some point quotation had become our native mode. There was no original." The author is also bold in experimenting with the structure and style of the novel. In all this, I am not sure she succeeds, but I admire her for the attempt.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure I found the plot, 1 July 2013
This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Kindle Edition)
I purchased this book set in Ceylon to read on my recent holiday to Sri Lanka. I found it Ok to read but found the plot very thin and I am really not sure why it is called the Hamilton Case when this seems to form a very small part of the book. The only thing that kept me reading was the places referred to in the book most of which I visited whilst on holiday.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars breathtaking - unable to put down, 16 May 2003
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This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Paperback)
This book has been newly released in Australia and was recommended by my local book shop. I found it slow at first but soon discovered that what I initial overlooked as 'waffle' was in fact superbly written prose that was impossible to ignore. This book must be read very slowly - it is riddled with surprises, many brutal and shocking. I often found myself rereading lines or paragraphs as I couldnt believe my eyes ! This author writes so beautifully at times it flows like poetry. Yet she also manages to weave a complex and mesmerising tale that is impossible to pre-empt. I was completely stunned.
Now I have finished the book I feel quite desperate to find another of this calibre. It is so rare to feel this and I am extremely grateful for the experience.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling, multi-layered literary novel exceptionally well written, 27 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Paperback)
This is the first novel I've read by Michelle de Krester - I'd not heard of her before. On the basis of this novel she should certainly be much better known. The writing is exquisite - sometimes too much so - beautifully observed and nuanced and subtle. The story is about family - the ties that bind - and also about the end of Empire and its impact in one place: Ceylon/Sri Lanka. De Krester is herself originally from the island but moved to Australia as a teenager and has lived there ever since, but only someone who knows the place as well as she does could evoke it so powerfully and unforgettably. It's a sad, moving story with characters which fascinate and stay with you even if you don't love or admire them. Highly recommended.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Narrative, an optimistic form, assumes that it is worth turning the page;, 10 Jan 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hamilton Case (Paperback)
Ceylon, now, of course, Sri Lanka, as Shivanathan says in his letter that ends the book, written to Harry, the youngest of the Obeyeskeres: "I loved the dash of it, as a boy: a small island riding an ocean and nothing to break the fall." This beautifully describes the geographical tear-drop Sri Lanka makes in the Indian Ocean. The novel carries within it some of the paradoxes and some of the puzzles of Britain's Colonial past, but the story is told from within the sphere of the colonised and as such it is a bitter story for all sides. The complexity of the island's make-up leaves the newcomer to Sri Lanka's past somewhat bewildered. The Sinhalese community forms the majority of the population; Tamils, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island, form the largest ethnic minority. Other communities include Moors, Burghers, Kaffirs, Malays and the aboriginal Vedda people. Stanley Alban Marriott (more frequently called Sam) Obeysekere is the central protagonist, but De Kretser often changes the narrator and one has to pay attention or find oneself suddenly puzzled at who is speaking.

The Hamilton case represents one of those moments when a whole culture is shocked into new ways of thinking, although it is misleading to assume that the book concentrates on this case, in which Sam, as a Barrister at Law, finds himself embroiled. Both before and after this case there is a good deal of family activity, including Sam's love for his sister and the racy love life of his mother Maude, not to mention what his friend and rival Jaya gets up to. It is made up of quite short chapters, some of them not contributing a great deal to moving the story along, but nonetheless, beautifully redolent of the atmosphere of Sri Lanka's exotic landscapes.

That said, it does go on a bit too long and a bit too fancifully, as another solution to the Hamilton case is proposed in the closing pages. That might have been introduced earlier in the book. It was worth proposing, but not surrounded with several rather pointless added chapters. The book started by drawing me in, very successfully, but later on it became a case of beautiful prose supported only shakily by a weak narrative.
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The Hamilton Case
The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser (Paperback - 2 Sep 2004)
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