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Short History of a Prince
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Short History of a Prince

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,526 ratings  ·  107 reviews
Walter McCloud was constantly eclipsed by those around him - his beautiful, talented friends, his flamboyant relatives, his golden-boy brother, Daniel. He was always the outsider, never the star. But the summer of 1972 was a turning point in the life of fifteen-year-old Walter. It was the time when he realized that his great passion for dance would never be matched by his ...more
Published April 1st 1999 by Transworld Publishers (first published December 12th 1991)
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Best Gay Fiction
324th out of 1,111 books — 1,411 voters
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Size Matters!
149th out of 290 books — 19 voters

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Community Reviews

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When I picked this up I was mostly intriqued by the cover, the ballet shoes on the front. I had already read two of her other books and I'm a fan of Jane Hamilton's. This book did not disappointment. It's about a young man who dreams of getting a big dancing role in the Chicago ballet. He works really hard, has some natural talent, and his family is supportive, though his lessons are expensive and there's some finageling involved with transportation. He's gay, though I think that's only hinted a ...more
Wendy Perkins
"The Short History of a Prince" is a coming of age story split across one man's lifetime, showing how "coming of age" is an ongoing process that isn't relegated to any one place in a person's life. As a teenager in the early 1970s, Walter struggled with his sexuality, his feelings for his best friend Mitch, his desire to be a ballet dancer despite having little talent, and the slow death of his older brother from cancer. His crowning moment was landing the part of the Prince in a community theat ...more
This was a tough read because of Hamilton's continued themes of loneliness, sexuality questions, identity, and finding your place in your adult life within your family and within your "life plan," which are all important themes to wrestle with, but difficult for a good reason. Her character's voices are sometimes a bit too articulate and perfect, but the main character is convincing and intriguing. His dramatic nature and obsession with finding love and identity is compelling, but I don't think ...more
I think Jane Hamilton is brilliant, but this book falls one step short. Had she written this novel from the point of view of her protagonist, I would have been engaged. I would have been dazzled. Every time she permits her Prince to speak, I love what I hear. The flat, neutral, midwestern tone of the omniscient narrator does him a disservice.
If only this were the penultimate draft, and not the final product.
Stacey B
Good story by Jane Hamilton. Very interesting main character, a boy with a love of ballet, two good friends, and a brother suffering from a terminal illness. I liked the way the story shifted from Walter's youth to present time, balancing then and now and eventually coming together to illustrate how Walter's past shaped his future.
It certainly took everything I had to finish this book. It isd a story told in a gay man's voice about his life. He wanted to be a ballet dancer, but everything sort of ends when his older brother gets sick with cancer. His life goes on, but it never got me excited about it. I was rather disappointed with this story from Jane Hamilton.
I like this book. While Jane Hamilton often makes me feel such an upwelling of despair and pathos that jumping off a bridge seems reasonable, this book could be considered "Jane Hamilton Lite". It addresses the same issues she covers in other books, but with a far lighter touch.
I'm a huge fan of Hamilton's. She always puts her finger on the pulse of protagonists' hearts AND minds, while telling an engaging story.
Poor Walter has lived his entire life in frustartion and in authenticity. He finally has to admit he is a failure as a dancer, his one youthful passion--besides the bisexual Mitch. Walter lives in the shadow of his sainted dead brother' 25 years after his death, Mitch feels the reprecussions. Mitch cna only exprerss his gay sexualtiy in furtive encounters, long
Gotta love Jane Hamilton! The main character couldn't be farther from my own, yet I became him as I read this. I was running out of the building in a tu-tu...
Terry Gorman
This book is a quiet, smooth, and wonderful read. Totally unpretentious and almost poetic. Reading it was like gliding across a frozen pond alone at the break of dawn.
While reading this book I felt a little as if the story had been tossed into a blender, spun around once or twice, then dumped back out again and glued to the cover. The story was good and interesting, but the jumping around was somewhat distracting in just a few places. I have no problems with a book that tells you someone's history in little chunks, in fact I find that kind of storytelling fascinating because it brings questions to mind about what happened in the past or how said past connects ...more
Romerei Macarse
The book at first was a bit dragging. The first part made me yawn at times, but still I persisted. It was not until I'm in the middle part of the story that the narrative started to pound at my consciousness like a hammer. Wow, Walter's coming-of-age story is poignant and bittersweet that I can relate to his losses and gains. His teenage years were like everyone else's ---> full of dreams, disappointments, insecurities and yes, raging hormones. His uncultivated relationship with his diseased ...more
Sarah B.
I love Jane Hamilton, and this novel is masterful. It was very easy to read, and even when my interest in the story drooped, I kept going because it was so lovely to read. Hamilton is just so good.

Like other readers, I had trouble connecting with Walter, the main character. His story, about ambition without talent and surviving an adolescence in the shadow of his older brother's illness, was compelling enough, but Hamilton seemed to keep the reader at an emotional distance. Because Walter doesn'
Phyllis Jennings
What to say? Exquisite writing which fully captures the agonies of adolescence, only in this case, add the agony of your brother dying of cancer.

Another important theme in this novel is the great significance of hallowed family places, be it a single childhood home, a nature retreat,or simply a town or city that has filled your memory with a tangible sense of place and time.

Jane Hamilton has an intense ability to put very complex and difficult emotions into words. Though a thoroughly depressing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though at times I could hardly stand the way the main character Walter behaved. The story was an intimate look at a small group of people, the characters felt real, and I loved her writing, which is not always the case. I did like her book Disobedience, but was not a fan of Map of the World or The Book of Ruth and I thought Laura Ryder's Masterpiece was absolutely ridiculous. Telling the story by jumping back and forth in time doesn't always work in a novel bu ...more
Terri Tinkel
This was not my favorite Jane Hamilton novel. It's the writing that makes me say that. The sentences are so long and difficult to figure out the point of the writing. The story of a young man who wants nothing more than to be a danseur ( a male ballet dancer) such as Balanchine or Tchaikovsky or Baryshnikov and Nereyev realizes that his dreams will never come true. He never seems to fit in and he clings to a couple of friends to fill his life. Along with that disappointment is the awareness that ...more
The story of Walter, going back and forth between his teen years, when he is aspiring to be a ballet dancer but is really not very good, and the present, when he leaves his job selling dollhouse furniture in NYC to become an English teacher in small town Wisconsin. In the childhood winter he is cast in a crappy production of the Nutcracker in Rockford (while his friends star in the show in Chicago), his brother struggles through terminal illness and Walter has his first homosexual experience. Th ...more

Story of Walter, growing up homosexual in suburban Chicago in the 70's.

When he is a teenager his brother dies of cancer.

Decades later Walter is writing of this time in his and his families life and of their lives now.

Nice read.
Jane Hamilton is an excellent writer, and this book is a fine read. Not a "beach book" however-- Well written, moving, but more complex than just picking up a short novel to simply enjoy. But so worth it. Very much recommended!
Juliet Wilson
I really enjoyed this book. Jane Hamilton is a very perceptive and engaging writer. She creates very believable characters and has a real ability to get to the centre of things and show the humour or the poignancy in any situation without needing to spell things out too obviously. She really gives a clear picture of Walter's isolation both as an adolescent and as an adult. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the ballet classes and Walter's trips to the ballet, as I had taken ballet lessons as a ...more
As I am wont to do, I nearly chucked this one after fewer than 50 pages, finding it hard to get into. Glad I was worth it! The plot follows Walter from pre-adolescence to his teaching career as an adult, flipping back and forth by blocks of time. Walter realizes his affection for his close friend is more than as a boyhood chum, and that he really hasn't the talent necessary to pursue a ballet career. I found the dialogue a tad stilted at times, but usually believable. Plenty of i ...more
I found this book in an opp shop for $3 one day as i liked the blurb. After a year of it sitting on my book shelf i finally decided to give it a go. Jane Hamilton is a most wonderful author, i hadent been very acquaint with her work until now but i will looking out for further titles to read. Her descriptive writing, character development and plot did not disappoint me in the slightest, its as if she dident really try at all, she just demonstrated pure talent. She really ties up all lose ends wh ...more
for Sabrina...

I definitely enjoyed this book, and can understand why my friend Sabrina loved it so much - the writing itself is very good. The storyline is interesting and is somehow delivered from a different angle than usual. What I loved most of all, though, was Sabrina's review of the book (below), and the fact that in some small way by reading the book I could share one last thing with her...

"There were lines that I read, re-read, underlined (in the library book), because I somehow wanted
Ally Wampler
This one grew on me...when i put it down I was very impressed. Walter's relationship with Susan really fascinated me. The scene when they meet at the hotel in chicago had some great dialouge.
Walter McCloud is a typical high school boy concerned with his friends and his interests. Then everything changes when his older brother is diagnosed with cancer. The book alternates between Walter's current life as a single gay man in 1995 adjusting to life as a teacher in a small Wisconsin town and Walter's teenage life in 1972-73 dealing with his family's devastation as they confront Daniel's illness.

There are so many touching and wrenching events in the past and present life of Walter. It's
I'm torn between two and three stars. Only two because it took so very long for me to get to know the main character and care enough about him to want to read the rest of the story. Three stars because by the end, I had developed a fondness for him and I remembered why I had liked at least two other books by Jane Hamilton.
I can only imagine what it must be like to be a writer. Create characters and worlds that only exist in your mind. "He said this, she said that and they were here when they sai
A coming of age story (that alternated between the 1970's and 1990's). Interesting, but some of the story line, not too believable.
Julia Mukuddem
this is my third book by this author ... oh wow, she is definitely a firm favourite author now.

'a map of the world' was a 5 star book ..!!

i thoroughly enjoyed this one. human emotions - she describes it so beautifully ... you totally go through the emotions with the character.

*spoiler alert*

the scene where he puts on the ballet clothes and what happens after that - his toes bleeding, his lover laughing at him - oh my word, it was gut-wrenching.

i was so satisfied with the end. my husband brou
Robin Parrott
I love her writing, willingness to delve and examine simple and complex- teenagers- sexual orientation, on different levels, and through the years. It was a slow start but developed well and she thankfully doesn't tie it all handily together. Sad, bittersweet, as are her other two great reads. Enjoyed her gift of prose.
I do recall liking Jane Hamilton's previous books but this is not her best. I don't typically read books that delve so deeply into a gay man's thoughts and actions, "not that there's anything wrong with that", as Seinfeld would say, but it's not a genre I seek out. Of course, it's not surprising Hamilton would tread where other authors may not. Staying open minded, it puts the reader into Walter's shoes and allows us to see how lonely, sad, and difficult such a life can be. The book also deals w ...more
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Jane Hamilton lives, works, and writes in an orchard farmhouse in Wisconsin. Her short stories have appeared in Harper's magazine. Her first novel, The Book of Ruth, won the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel and was a selection of the Oprah Book Club. Her second novel, A Map of the World, was an international bestseller.
More about Jane Hamilton...
A Map of the World The Book of Ruth Disobedience When Madeline Was Young Laura Rider's Masterpiece

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“Wait." Walter went to the basket, taking what was a gray sleeve, drawing it out fro the middle of the heap. "Oh," He said. He held the shapeless wool sweater to his chest. Joyce had knit for months the year Daniel died, and here was the result, her handiwork, the garment that would fit a giant. It was nothing more than twelve skeins of yarn and thousands of loops, but it had the power to bring back in a flash the green-tiled walls of the hospital, the sound of an ambulance trying to cut through city traffic in the distance, the breathing of the dying boy, his father staring at the ceiling, the full greasy bucket of fried chicken on he bed table.
"I'll take this one," Walter said, balling up the sweater as best he could, stuffing it into a shopping bag that was half full of the books he was taking home, that he was borrowing.
"Oh, honey," Joyce said. "You don't want that old scrap."
"You made it. I remember your making it." Keep it light, he said to himself, that's a boy. "There's a use for it. Don't you think so, Aunt Jeannie? No offense, Mom, but I could invade the Huns with it or strap the sleeves to my car tires in a blizzard, for traction, or protect our nation with it out in space, a shield against nuclear attack."
Jeannie tittered in her usual way in spite of herself. "You always did have that sense of humor," she said as she went upstairs. When she was out of range, Joyce went to Walter's bag and retrieved the sweater. She laid it on the card table, the long arms hanging down, and she fingered the stitches. "Will you look at the mass of it," she exclaimed. "I don't even recall making it."
""'Memory -- that strange deceiver,'" Walter quoted.”
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