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The Hamilton Case Paperback – 2 Sep 2004

3.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099453797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099453796
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A novel so delicious that you have to keep stopping as you read, for fear of finishing too soon" (Jane Shilling Sunday Telegraph)

"A bewitching tale...an utterly captivating blend of intellectual muscle and story-telling magic" (Independent)

"Reminiscent of The Remains of the Day. De Kretser has given us the classic whodunnit wrapped up in a beautiful and tragic literary novel" (Vogue)

"Haunting, lush and delicately nuanced" (Observer)

"Rewarding, thought-provoking, witty and often disconcerting, the novel takes the reader into a world of transformations - conjuring a fiction which is tantalizingly vivid" (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

'A mesmeric study of a family, a scandal and a murder, set in Ceylon in the 1930s. (Booker judges, where were you?)' Hilary Mantel, Daily Telegraph

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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.
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