The Short History of a Prince

Hamilton, Jane

Published by Random House, 1998
ISBN 10: 0679457550 / ISBN 13: 9780679457558
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First Printing of the First Edition. Signed by Jane Hamilton directly on the title page. Book and dust jacket in fine condition. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: "Jane Hamilton has removed all doubt that she belongs among the major writers of our time."  
--San Francisco Chronicle

Set in Jane Hamilton's signature Midwest, The Short History of a Prince is the story of Walter McCloud and his ambition to become a great ballet dancer. With compassion and humor, and alternating between Walter's adolescent and adult voices, the novel tells of Walter's heartbreak as he realizes that his passion cannot make up for the innate talent that he lacks.

Introduced as a child to the genius of Balanchine and the lyricism of Tchaikovsky by his stern but cultured aunt Sue Rawson, Walter has dreamed of growing up to shine in the role of the Prince in The Nutcracker. But as Walter struggles with the limits of his own talent and faces the knowledge that Mitch and Susan, his more gifted friends, have already surpassed him, Daniel, his older brother, awakens one morning with a strange lump on his neck that leads to fearful consequences--and to Walter's realization that a happy family, and a son's place in it, can tragically change overnight. The year that follows will in fact transform the lives not only of the McClouds but also of Susan, who becomes deeply involved with the sick Daniel, and Mitch, the handsome and supremely talented dancer with whom Walter is desperately in love. Into this absorbing narrative Hamilton weaves a place of almost mythical healing, the family's summer home at Lake Margaret, Wisconsin, where for generations the clan has gathered on both happy and unhappy occasions.

Only a writer of Jane Hamilton's sensitivity and humanity could do justice to this moving story of the torments of sexuality and the redemptive power of family and friendship. This book confirms her place as a preeminent novelist of our time.

Review: As a teenager in Oak Ridge, Illinois, Walter McCloud is desperate for adventure, hoping for love and success as a dancer. "If life for Walter was composed in part of confusion, shame and deception, the ballet was order, dignity and forthright beauty." In 1995, at 38, nothing has turned out as he had expected. Having spent years working in a dollhouse shop in New York and engaging in that city's ready sexual excitement, Walter finally returns to his Midwestern roots, accepting a teaching job in Otten, Wisconsin--a place that might have little to recommend it save its proximity to his family's summer home. ("It had taken Walter several years to admit to himself that he couldn't go on indefinitely selling Lilliputian Coke bottles and microscopic toilet-roll dowels.") In this new community, he will have to keep his head down, a stance that has long suited him, because he prefers to hold one memory of lost intimacy and perfection in high, private relief.

Walter's exile, or new start, allows memory to come to the fore, particularly that painful year in which his brother was dying of Hodgkin's and he and his fellow dancers were dying for experience. Jane Hamilton explores the distance between desire and reality, satisfaction and secrecy, irresistibly alternating between past and present. At first, we can't wait for Walter to break through, and it's tempting to race through her prince's history--one which is, happily, not that short. But to do so would be to miss out on Hamilton's fine major and minor characters and her exploration of competition, complicity, and silence. At one point, Walter fears that his pupils have "no clue that there was pleasure to be found in observing character. They seemed to be afraid to look around themselves and find a world every bit as amusing, ridiculous and unjust as Dickens's London..." Hamilton's readers, however, will find this pleasure in abundance.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Short History of a Prince
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition

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