Monday, April 7, 2008

The Speckled People

An Irish friend of mine lent me this book by Hugo Hamilton but I wasn't sure I wanted to read it. I waited for Joe to finish it first so that he could tell me if it would appeal to someone none-Irish or if he had to grow up in Dublin to really get it; both he and this friend of mine had. He said that I should definitely read it so I did.

Having finished it now, I can say that you'd probably get more out of it if you grew up in Dublin, but that it will appeal to the non-Dubliners as well, as it deals with a lot of themes that can be appreciated by other nationalities. The one that I kept thinking about while reading is identity. Hamilton's book describes his childhood as part of an Irish-German family in the 50s. He grew up in a house with a German mother who longed to go home to Germany and an intensely nationalistic Irish father who was against anything English and pro anything Irish. Meaning that Hamilton and his siblings grew up living in Dublin but speaking German and Irish at home - speaking English was forbidden. As I'm someone who was born in Poland but travelled for most of my life, I can relate to the identity difficulties that this situation caused. I still remember thinking I was American, not Polish, when I was little and we lived in the US for a few years. I can really identify with wanting to be what everyone else is, not different.

The other issue that stands out strongly is how the mother deals with her memories of the war and how the Irish think of the war. She and her German family weren't Nazis and they had to go through their own share of pain because of this. Yet it takes non-Germans a while to realise that the two words are not interchangeable. It really hurts to read that the children don't want to be German - this was because the other kids called them Nazi names and wanted to execute them all the time.

Besides the interesting themes in the book, there is another reason to read it. The style it's written in is unique and engaging. It's as if the story is told by the author as a child, it has an innocence to it, but at times it's obvious that the voice knows more than it should. It's a really interesting book and I'm glad that my friend lent it to me - I probably wouldn't have come across it otherwise.

I'm changing my rating system because the stars aren't doing much for me. I think I'll use the ABC system of American schools - it's a system I'm familiar with, so I think it will work better for me, will better reflect my opinions. So in the new system this will be a B+.

Challenges: Orbis Terrarum, Eponymous Challenge - which means that this last one is finished, my first challenge ever! ;-)


bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

This sounds like a great book, I love the title...very capturing title. This would be a book from a different perspective, thanks for a great OT book review, I need to find this book!!

joanna said...

Hi Bethany, yes, it's worth reading, it's different from other stuff I've read... Hope you locate a copy!

Corinne said...

So this sounds really good. My grandpa's family is Irish (although I've never been there) so I think I want to try this just to get a taste. Thanks for the review.

joanna said...

Hi corinne - I think you'd enjoy reading it if you have Irish roots!