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The Speckled People

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  752 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
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 s ...more
Paperback, 298 pages
Published October 6th 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published September 5th 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,994)
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My daughter recommended this book to me and it is a memoir of Hugo Hamilton's life growing up in Ireland. His father was fanatically "Irish" and his mother was "German". Hence the title. The father would only allow Irish (Gaelic) spoken in the home and was rabidly anti-British. The mother spoke German. This memoir of two boys growing up in Ireland makes for riveting reading. It gives one a very different view of Ireland than you would get reading Frank McCourt or Roddy Doyle. Highly recommended.
Friederike Knabe
I found The Speckled People after encountering a fascinating article by Hugo Hamilton on the "Loneliness of Being German". Similar to the article, the book immediately struck a chord with me. Those living within and without their own language will find a special connection to this book. Language as the identification of "home" and "country" and "language wars" are explored here in a rather exceptional way - through the voice and outlook of a growing child. Like a patchwork quilt the vignette cha ...more
Jan 12, 2009 Faith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006, biography
The Speckled People - one of the Irish autobiographies I found in Ireland this summer. Hugo Hamilton is an acclaimed Irish novelist, and in this book he brings alive his German-Irish childhood in the 50s. It is not easy to belong to the speckled people, the people who are different, the people who are neither Irish nor German, but just speckled. Especially after the Second World War it's not easy to be speckled German.

The book is very touching and real (human). Hamilton manages the child's pers
Persephone Abbott
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 07, 2012 Aleesha rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Awful, Awful and just beyond awful. Maybe I am just not a very intellectual person like the rest of the people reading this book . I normally finish a good book within 2 hours but with this one I spent 2 weeks because I found it physically impossible to pick it up and torture my own brain.

This book sounds more like the rambling of a 5 year old child. Have no idea what the publisher and editor were thinking.
Some problems:
1. The author has no consistency, no clear theme established in any chapter
Mar 10, 2013 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The language is soft and gentle, and the descriptions are from a child's perspective. The combination makes the tyranny of the father even worse, the passivity of the mother more distressing, the fun and cakes slightly ironic.

The story of the father is interesting. He was nationalistic to the extreme and only allowed Irish - or German, since his wife was German and it was not English - to be spoken, but his children lived in a world where English was spoken by so many. I respected his belief th
Jan 31, 2008 minnie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really liked this memoir of a boy growing up in fifties Ireland with a german mother and Irish father.As in a lot of memoirs I read, the father was stubborn and misguided and the mother an understanding saint of a woman. The writer never faltered from telling his story from a childs point of view. The fathers belief in a future Ireland where only the Irish language was spoken, forbade his children to speak English or even listen to it spoken.The children were ostracised from their peers and ma ...more
J.S. Dunn
Aug 27, 2014 J.S. Dunn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ireland
Touching story of what would today be termed a dysfunctional family, told by an unforgettable child narrator. How true that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Tolstoy)

The pain is somewhat mitigated by the end, and without sentimentality or an improbable happy outcome ( those are left to fictional accounts).
Janice Windle
Feb 04, 2014 Janice Windle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This autobiographical novel is extraordinarily well written. Hamilton uses the voices that he might have had at the various ages from which he records the incidents, characters and emotional situations of his childhood up to his teens. The result is a novel of stunning immediacy, beauty and quite a bit of humour too. We meet Hamilton's strange, obsessive and abusive Irish father, his warm and life-affirming German mother, and gradually learn their stories through Hamilton's accounts of his mothe ...more
Mar 25, 2009 Carricklass rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book - could identify with a lot of his childhood, though I wasn't beaten for speaking English - for plenty of other things - like being caught knitting on a Sunday! Informative book written in a deceptively easy style - plenty of fun masking the pain.
Jan 03, 2015 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book so much because it makes me keep questioning about humanity. When I read about the bullying and execution, I feel so terrible and almost lost my fatih on human beings. The authour always write other plots at that time to reagin my faith on human beings. There's a significant scene about the author's sister. What the conductor did makes me feel warm again.

Actually I was a bit confused when I first read the reaction of the mother on her sons were bullied. I felt a little upset abo
May 19, 2016 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a good portion of this memoir I was prepared to give it 2 or 3 stars. I believe I felt this way because for the most part, the book is written in a childish tone from a child's point of view and while at times I will admit I appreciated that, I believe it also elicited impatience. While I valued the unique story being told, I still struggled to see the bigger picture of where the overall piece was working toward. For me, it wasn't until the end that I decided to reward this book with a 4. Th ...more
It is not a very breezy kind of novel and is a story recited through the eyes of a boy. The story depicts the dilemma of a boy who is caught between multi nationalist parents and society and how he gets out of it. His odd childhod wherein he has to encounter a fiercely nationalist Irish father and German mom. Both the father and the mother are again caught in their homesickness. His mother's for Germany, his father's for an unavailable Ireland and the boy for a home and homeland of his own.The s ...more
Maol Mhuire O'Duinnin
Intriguing and heart-breaking account of Hamilton's childhood in 1950s Ireland being pulled in many different directions. His father is Irish and a stickler about his children learning Irish Gaelic in defiance of the increasingly encroaching English mainstream society in Ireland, including the language. Hamilton, however, is forced to learn English in school and he and his siblings are made fun of because they speak Gaelic by their Irish schoolmates. They are also antagonized for being half-Germ ...more
Polina Kolatsi
Nov 08, 2013 Polina Kolatsi rated it liked it
In this deeply autobiographical novel Hamilton tells the story of a "speckled" -half Irish - half German- family in Dublin Ireland, trying to build their lives and home following the end of the Second World War. The narrator - and author- speaks to us as the oldest son of a German mother and an idealist and often purist Irish Catholic father who opposes the “anglophication” of Ireland and makes obsessive efforts to reinstate Irish as Ireland's native language, in the aftermath of the Irish Civil ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Julia rated it really liked it
Hugo Hamilton erzählt von seiner Kindheit in Irland mit einer deutschen Mutter und einem irischen Vater, der seinen Kindern verbietet, englisch zu sprechen. Man kann sich vorstellen, dass das für ihn und seine Geschwister nicht immer einfach war, denn in den Fünfzigern waren die Nazis noch recht frisch im Gedächtnis (und Kinder können ja so grausam sein) und auch irisch war nicht mehr wirklich üblich.

Das Buch ist auch ungewöhnlich in dem Sinne, dass es wirklich wie von einem Kind geschrieben wir
Jennifer (JC-S)
Nov 19, 2011 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘When you’re small you can inherit a secret without knowing what it is.’

In ‘The Speckled People’, Hugo Hamilton writes, from a child’s perspective, of his Irish childhood. He writes of growing up in a home where the languages spoken were the Irish of his nationalist father and the German of his mother. English was forbidden by his father, who was so obsessed with trying to hold onto his linguistic and cultural heritage that he would not do business with anyone who could not pronounce his Irish n
Oct 20, 2012 Marleen rated it really liked it
I rated this book 3.5 stars.

In this memoir Hugo Hamilton tells the story of his youth. Born in Dublin in the 1950’s with a German mother and an Irish, nationalistic, father his upbringing was anything but conventional. Because of his father’s strong and uncompromising views on being Irish and resurrecting the Irish identity it was forbidden to speak English in their house. While the rest of Dublin lived in an English speaking world, Hugo and his siblings grew up speaking German and Irish at home
Mar 16, 2015 Freckleville rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I, myself am a speckled person.
It's such a great book. Some books about times past in Ireland are bleak & grey. This has humour, warmth & love in it. I recommended to my Dad, who is not a reader, & he too enjoyed it. He was reminded of his childhood in Mayo, Ireland.
I see it on my bookshelf (love the library but had to own a copy of this) & it makes me smile.
Funny that it was my friend in Berlin who told me about it. More German Ireland connections.
Oct 24, 2015 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in a self-proclaimed Irish family that had lived in Germany, a lot of the imagery of this memoir was familiar to me. At the same time, it's unlike any other memoir I've read. It's about trying to live in two cultures, about trying to navigate a world where others don't understand what this is like. It's about "home" and nationalism and how language shapes our experience. This is not a happy story. But it is beautiful.
Mar 21, 2011 Margot rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't really know what to think about this book. It has been hightly recommended to me by a couple of people who actually used to share my type of books so I was really expecting a great experience. But I have been quite disappointed. I don't know if it is the childish point of view (and language level) that lowed the experience but I didn't enjoy it as much as I was supposed to. Well, I truly believe that the time you read a book is a huge factor in your appreciation of it and with all the wo ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing memoir of life in the fifties in Ireland with a strict Irish nationalist father and creative and loving German mother. Both cultures are significant in the children's lives, though the father's rejection of all things English makes life for his children very hard. They are bullied for both their German heritage and the Irish only focus of the father. Recommended by an Irish friend, of course!
A. Mary
Feb 10, 2012 A. Mary rated it liked it
This memoir did not engage me right from the start, and I think that may partly be the result of its departures from genre. Ultimately, those are the very things that give the book its depth. Hamilton's narrator is supposedly a child, and he does relate things in a fragmentary way as a child would, but his sophistication is not the accidental sophistication of the child. He speaks of language as a home, as a country, as a way of knowing who and where we are, and he shows ways in which culture do ...more
Dudu Zen
Jun 06, 2014 Dudu Zen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Um livro bem chatinho, não via a hora de terminar. A narração é arrastada.....parece que ele nunca vai direto ao ponto, fica fazendo divagações e tenho a impressão de que o livro seria infinitamente melhor se tivesse só umas 70 páginas, com toda a informação resumida. Seria beeeeeeeeeeeeem melhor....
Kim Feuchter
Sep 04, 2015 Kim Feuchter rated it liked it
This book was well-written and had standout moments for me, but there was something about it that prevented me from fully connecting and falling in love with any of the characters. As the book progressed, I found more to like and ultimately thought it was a good book.
Sep 08, 2014 Norma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book 4 Stars... A great read and I would recommend to everyone.
An unforgettable life story told by a loving son..... An Irish father and a German mother who both had love of country and language.
Nov 12, 2010 Luisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what to think about this book. After some moments of doubt I decided to rate it as "I didn't like it" for many different reasons. The were parts of the book that I found interesting but soon after the author passed on to a different story altogether and it was sometimes hard to follow his train of thought. Towards the end I started to get very impatient and couldn't wait for the book to end and that is probably the reason why I didn't quite grasp the reason of the author's father's ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Iva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This excellent memoir never strayed from a child's observations of his life in Ireland in the 1950's. There have been many tyrannical fathers in memoirs (and fiction) but typically they are not obsessed with the Gaelic language. The father takes it to lengths not possible to imagine: not allowing his children to speak English, using their Irish names at all times, and trying to convince others that Irish is the true language and English should be abolished in all of Ireland. Then there is the Ge ...more
Mar 28, 2015 is_znobel rated it really liked it
Read this book a few years ago, borrowed book from my cousin. I enjoyed it, maybe because I have a soft spot for reading stories on one's search for identity and finding of self.
May 15, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. Genuinely touching, and authentic in the way it deals with human experience. A memoir written through the perspective of Hamilton's child self using deceptive language that is rich in poetry, metaphor and complex modalities. He describes difficult family relationships with his Irish nationalist father who refuses to let his children speak English, and with subtle shifts of focus, shows us the harrowing experiences of his mother in wartime Germany. He gives insight into ...more
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Hugo Hamilton is an Irish writer.

Hamilton's mother was a German who travelled to Ireland in 1949 for a pilgrimage, married an Irishman, and settled in the country. His father was a militant nationalist who insisted that his children should speak only German or Irish, but not English, a prohibition the young Hugo resisted inwardly. "The prohibition against English made me see that language as a cha
More about Hugo Hamilton...

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“Maybe your country is only a place you make up in your own mind. Something you dream about and sing about. Maybe it's not a place on the map at all, but just a story full of people you meet and places you visit, full of books and films you've been to. I'm not afraid of being homesick and having no language to live in. I don't have to be like anyone else. I'm walking on the wall and nobody can stop me.” 182 likes
“One day, my father said there was nothing outside infinity. He said the universe was like a cardboard box with God sitting outside surrounded by light, but I wanted to know if maybe God was sitting inside another cardboard box with the light on, and how could anyone be sure how many cardboard boxes there are.” 4 likes
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