The Speckled People
By Hugo Hamilton
After the war
Through the eyes of a child labeled by society as the new Irish, half Irish/half German, you are introduced to Hugo Hamiltonís family.
Touched by innocence, he reminds us that when we are small we know nothing. That it is sometimes difficult to know the difference between sadness and joy. That you know things ďareĒ because you witness them every day of your young life. You recognize the sky, the sea and the horizon, the bark of a dog at the seaís edge and that in your home you speak Irish and German, never English. You donít want to be special, to be called German, Kraut or Nazi and told you are guilty. What have you done to have society see you this way?
For Hugo, nothing changes. Not the shouting of Sieg heil or Achtung, Hitler or Eichmann. This is a way of life for Hugo and older brother, Franz, simply because their mother is German. Fear follows him as if it was his eternal shadow.
What Hugo knows is that his father is from Cork and works as an engineer in Dublin. He writes in Irish, is obsessed with making speeches to his fellow countrymen and finding that one product that would bring about a better life for his family. His fatherís family came from a long line of fishermen. That his grandfather was a sailor, who fell on deck one day, lost his memory and later died in a hospital.
Hugo believes you inherit from your father: sadness, hunger, hurt and anger. That England doesnít exist, that Ireland needs its own language, inventions and itís own voice to be recognized in the global society.
Although there is a great sadness within his mother, due partly to her being so far from Germany, she makes everything better with cakes, stories and hugs that crack your bones.
THE SPECKLED PEOPLE is a precious literary effort which is retold by the author through his childhood perspective. Presented with honesty and innocence, with such detailed memories that you can hear his dad banging the door, smell momís cakes in the oven and be afraid that both children would act in a way not acceptable to their father. It doesnít paint a perfect world, instead shows the true colors of prejudice with all its dark and harsh curves. It reveals what happens when a disturbed individual grabs the reins of his country and influences his countrymen. There are dangerous times and dangerous people that can make you disappear or eat away at your soul. I nominate this book for the First Annual Marley Award.
Five dogs barking at the water out of five
Denise Fleischer, gottawritenetwork.com book reviewer
December 12, 2003