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The Hamilton Case

3.17  ·  Rating details ·  664 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
A haunting and acclaimed novel of thwarted ambition, corruption, murder and family secrets by the author of the acclaimed bestseller The Rose Grower.

Murder, moonlight, the jungle crowding close...

The place is Ceylon, the time the 1930s. Set amid tea plantations, decay and corruption, this sinuous, subtle, surprising novel is a masterly evocation of time and place, of colon
Paperback, 294 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Random House Australia (first published 2003)
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Jim Fonseca
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Hamilton Case is set in Sri Lanka (then the British colony of Ceylon) around the early 1900s. The main character is Sam (after his initials). He is a young black man, a native Sinhalese, who goes to Oxford to become a lawyer. He is so sold on the ideals and benefits of British colonialism that all his life he uses the phrase “We Edwardians.”

Most of the time he seems oblivious to his skin color and native status despite many warning signs, such as a European piano teacher who catches him han
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: colonialism
Possibly the best book I've ever read about the invisible harm that colonialism does to the psyche of a nation. The Hamilton Case is told through the eyes of a native Sri Lankan who grows up during the British occupation and does fairly well in its systems. But through his story and that of his friends and associates, we see the elaborate self deception that is needed to be able to live with oneself and one's compromises under colonialism, and the unfocused hate (at one's self, at the colonial o ...more
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A review in the New York Times Book Review got me to reserve The Lost Dog by her, but it didn't really appeal as much as this previous one--and I could hardly put it down. The details of daily life in Ceylon and Oxford, the story of colonialism in Ceylon and the murder mystery all are a really good read. I slowed down a bit in the last third, mostly because of being sidetracked by fact checking (what a "London silk" is, for example, and the flora and fauna and food). It is a very alive book and ...more
Jan 03, 2016 is currently reading it
Shelves: books-i-own
Also reading for school!
Stef Rozitis
This was a lush, richly textured, complex novel sort of like Proust except interesting. I actually think the post-structuralist bent of it was deliberate as was certain reflexive elements within it.

Set in Sri Lanka, the novel probes identities available to colonised yet somewhat privileged people. Sam is a lawyer, one who is proud of his English education and sees himself as above Singhalese and Tamil people (even though technically he is still Singhalese himself). He goes out of his way to dist
Sep 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The Hamilton case is a murder in Sri Lanka in 1902 when it was still known as Ceylon. Born into a wealthy Celonese family and educated at Oxford, Sam Obeyskere is a home grown product of the British Empire. He returns home to practice law and finds that he is too British to be native and too native to be British. When he is asked to comment on a sensational local murder his arrogant belief in his own importance and his rash response that an Englishman is responsible for the killing will dog him
Feb 04, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
For the life of me I cannot understand why this was published. I am sorry to the author, who I know put a lot off time and effort into this story, but...

She did weave a beautiful picture of Ceylon in all its tropical glory, and with all the tropical glory comes the bugs, pests, reptiles, and rodents. But the characters, men who are filled with ego, macho self worth, and conceit! Women who are mousy, arm candy and married for breeding purposes only save one, Maud. She was the only colorful spot i
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Travelers
Recommended to Marguerite by: New York Times
This was nothing like what I expected. What it is: a sweeping book about colonialism, especially the British variety, culture and families. The story, which takes place in Ceylon, is exotic and the writing original and beautiful. It made me think about the Philippines, where I spent almost two years of my childhood, and the spread of American culture more generally. I'll come back to this one, and look for anything else by De Kretser.
Dec 02, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Another unreliable narrator -- this one pompous. Everybody in this novel is unhappy, abused, or slowly decaying. Bleh, bleh, bleh.
Jul 10, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most boring and confusing books I have ever read.
The Hamilton Case is divided into three distinct sections. The story begins in Ceylon in the early 1900's, a British colony with a complicated social structure. The social structure is a cascading one, with the British at the top, then the Sinhalese and under them the Tamil, and so on.

Part one of the narrative is in first person - Sam is telling the story of his childhood. It is one of loneliness, attempts to get the attention of his parents and struggles to fit in socially. He says, perhaps fo
As other reviewers can point out, the actual mystery of the Hamilton Case takes up little room in this drawn out novel. Whoever wrote the synopsis on the back of the book did an excellent job of what this book could have accomplished. In re-reading that paragraph, I am sort of tempted to give it a higher score because it sounds so intruiging.

de Krester certainly has a knack for description. She repeatedly takes delight in rattling off lists of every day objects that are perceived treasures by th
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
I don't know why, but I had a really hard time plowing through this book. I just didn't care about any of the characters, and found the narration/writing style a choppy, a good idea but poorly executed. I almost abandoned it but was encouraged by my mother to skim the last 100 pages (I had already made it that far, so why not, right?). I'm am glad I skimmed it, only to re-enforce that fact that I was glad to be done with it, I would have been very annoyed if I had taken the time to read it porpe ...more
Where to begin? Changing the cover of this book to the above, did not make this book any more appealing.
I read about 225 pages, and was still clueless-the character of Sam was downright condescending and arrogant-along with the handful of annoying and strange characters. Who are these people? what relevance do any of these chapters have to each other??
The synopsis has NOTHING to do with the book.
Skip it...completely confusing and unlikable. I gave up, and I never give up on a book unless its abs
Jen Jewel Brown
Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a crisp and tantalising read with elements of detective novel, colonial mystery and magic realism. The protagonist was fully realised and revealed as more and more unlikeable as time went on, but the marvellous descriptions of the lush Ceylonese/Sri Lankan jungle remain with me. There were elements of the maddening irascibility of the romance of Gone With the Wind, where nothing goes into nothing.
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-asian-civ
A decent book, though honestly it could have been done much better. For one thing, the title seems to attempt to be clever, but mostly it just feels off. I liked the first third of the book much better than the rest of it in terms of tone, since a silly old man's memoir appeals more to my sensibilities than the psychological drama it changed into.

The same goes for the rest of the book -- I can see some people giving this a four (or even a five), but I really just think it's not my cup of tea.
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Great setting (Sri Lanka), odd (not always in a good way) characters, potentially interesting story that wasn't worth the number of pages it took to tell it.
May 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I kept slogging through this one despite despising the narrator...and didn't really find any big payoff at the end. Ah well.
Samantha Tracy
I don't get this book. I couldn't finish it.
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: disliked
This book somehow managed to be boring. There was some good imagery, but I didn't really care about the main character at all.
May 12, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't get past the first 50 pages.
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the 2nd book by Michelle de Kretser I have read and she is a wonderful writer. She is so good at writing one gets the feeling she simply gets carried away. The Hamilton Case takes place in 1930s Sri Lanka where de Kretser was born. She tells the story of the Obeyekeres, Sri Lankans and "black." They are wealthy but the head of the family tries every extravagance to rid himself of his inheritance and the property he owns. De Kretser loves lists and lists all the artwork, knick knacks, sou ...more
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating insightful writing about a Sinhalese Sri Lankan, Sam, who, deprived of his mother's attention finds status in the law. He weighs in on the murder of a tea plantation owner and thinks his success is guaranteed following the notoriety of the case, only to find that the British elite bestows favor discriminately. The tragedy of the story is that Sam never grows sufficiently throughout the story to embrace himself.
Amy Heap
The Hamilton Case is set in Sri Lanka, beginning in the early 1900s. Sam Obeysekere is born to wealthy Sinhalese parents and grows to be so very English in a country of changing identity. There is a murder case, a glamorous mother, and a lush, very alive setting, but the book isn’t just about those things. It’s about how we see ourselves, how we struggle to relate to others, and how we live with the differences between who we are and who we want to be.
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is definitely a ponder book. It had ups and downs. The style is a sort of weaving between characters, past, present and what could have been. It leaves off with fragments what possibles from the past - actions or inactions of characters - that may have effective the future. It has a quite depressing under current and yet, I kept feeling hopeful for the characters.
Unley Libraries
2nd Wednesday Book Club 2/5

Very sad and unhappy characters, unlikable. Some parts were described beautifully but went on for too long and would have benefited from some editing. We preferred Michelle de Krester's The Rose Grower.
Maria McArdle
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange tale of a tragic family surviving in a world torn between two cultures. Strong, believable characters. Descriptions of people, places and situations very imaginative and atmospheric.
I recommend The Hamilton Case for those looking for a book that is rather different and unusual.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I admit it. I didn't finish it. It is wonderfully written. You can practically smell the jungle described. But it wore me out. Is everyone going to be dysfunctional, unhappy, and selfish. Everyone? No one is going to get better of learn anything! I'm out.
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here.

The genre of post-colonial literary fiction has become one of the mainstays of the Booker Prize, with wins for several over the years. When starting to read The Hamilton Case, I thought that it was strange that this novel, set in Ceylon in the generation leading up to independence, had been overlooked by the judges - and I am not the only one, as Hilary Mantel (herself now of course a double winner of the prize) suggests that it should have made it to the sho
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meryl Review: The Hamilton Case Michelle de Kretser

The Hamilton Case is a novel by Sri Lankan/Australian author Michelle de Kretser. The book won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (SE Asia & Pacific) and the Encore Award (UK). Time Magazine named the book as one of the five best novels of the year.

Sam Obeysekere is an pretentious prig. Lawyer, pontificator - his self deluded, smug opinion of himself is reptilian. But his story, delivered with rapier sharp wit is fascinating and hypnotic.
Sam is
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Michelle de Kretser is an Australian novelist who was born in Sri Lanka but moved to Australia when she was 14.

She was educated in Melbourne and Paris, and published her first novel, 'The Rose Grower' in 1999. Her second novel, published in 2003, 'The Hamilton Case' was winner of the Tasmania Pacific Prize, the Encore Award (UK) and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Southeast Asia and Pacific). 'The
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“We believe the explanation we hear last. It's one of the ways in which narrative influences our perception of truth. We crave finality, and end to interpretation, not seeing that this too, the tying up of all loose ends in the last chapter, is only a storytelling ruse. The device runs contrary to experience, wouldn't you say? Time never simplifies - it unravels and complicates. Guilty parties show up everywhere. The plot does nothing but thicken.” 2 likes
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