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The Speckled People : A Memoir of a Half-Irish Childhood

Hamilton, Hugo

971 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0007148054 / ISBN 13: 9780007148059
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Canada, Limited, Scarborough, ON, Canada, 2003
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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About this Item

First printing. Signed on title page beneath his printed name. A child of Dublin of mixed Irish-German parentage examines the confusing postwar cultural experience. Book very good plus with owner embossed stamp to half-title, aging to paper. DJ likewise very good with minor shelfwear. 298 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 10714

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Speckled People : A Memoir of a ...

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Canada, Limited, Scarborough, ON, Canada

Publication Date: 2003

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: 1st Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

The childhood world of Hugo Hamilton is a confused place. His father, a brutal Irish nationalist, demands his children speak Gaelic at home whilst his mother, a softly spoken German emigrant who escaped Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war, encourages them to speak German. All Hugo wants to do is speak English. English is, after all, what the other children in Dublin speak. English is what they use when they hunt down Hugo (or "Eichmann" as they dub him) in the streets of Dublin, and English is what they use when they bring him to trial and execute him at a mock seaside court. Out of this fear and confusion Hugo tries to build a balanced view of the world, to turn the twisted logic of what he is told into truth. It is a journey that ends in liberation but not before this little boy has uncovered the dark and long-buried secrets that lie at the bottom of his parents' wardrobe.

Review:

The son of a German mother and an Irish father, Hugo Hamilton grew up in Dublin in the 1950s wearing "lederhosen and Aran sweaters, smelling of rough wool and new leather, Irish on top and German below." His family spoke both German and Irish, but English was strictly forbidden--even uttering a few words of the cursed language was enough to earn an often brutal punishment from their father, a staunch Irish nationalist. His father maintained that "your home is your language" and insisted that they be a model Irish family and an example for others to follow. Hamilton and his siblings were not even permitted to play with children who did not speak Irish exclusively--a particular problem in a country where English is the primary language. Ironically, he was taunted mercilessly for his German heritage and children jeered him with cries of "Eichmann" and "Heil Hitler." He was even put on "trial" once by a gang of kids who sentenced him death by snowball firing squad. This confusing quest to discover his identity and to gain an understanding of his family history is at the heart of The Speckled People, a profoundly touching and beautifully written memoir.

His parents' secrecy concerning their own pasts only exacerbated his frustration, forcing Hamilton to cling to fragments of information gleaned secretly from hidden photographs and buried family relics. Written from the perspective of a child, Hamilton captures his feelings of confusion, guilt, and fear convincingly and with much humor and insight. Full of poetic passages, sharp observations, and the kind of subtle epiphanies that are best expressed by a child, the book is a joy to read. "When you're small you know nothing and when you grow up there are things you don't want to know," he writes. This memoir is Hamilton's attempt to reconcile the two. --Shawn Carkonen

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