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The Short History of a Prince
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The Short History of a Prince

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,847 Ratings  ·  130 Reviews
Walter McCloud is a boy with dreams unlike most. Introduced as a child to the genius of Balanchine and the lyricism of Tchaikovsky, Walter has always aspired to be a dancer. As he grows older, it becomes clear that despite his desire, he lacks the talent, and he faces the painful knowledge that his more gifted friends have already surpassed him.

Soon, however, that pain is
Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 16th 1999 by Anchor (first published December 12th 1998)
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Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read in 1999 pre Goodreads. At the time Hamilton was one of my favorite authors and I read all of her books when they came out. Charming story about a now grown ballet dancer fighting to keep his family's summer home while coming to terms with his life.
Terry Gorman
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 23, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-sf
"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
Dec 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julia Grundling
Apr 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
C. Miles
I was torn between 3 and 4 stars for this book. Jane Hamilton has an easy illustrative writing style that I really enjoyed. I found the story to be captivating at times, and slow and lacking momentum at others. Overall, I'd say this is a great book, both for the story and for the way the author makes the characters relate-able and aggravating in a beautiful way.
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.
May 22, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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.
Tammy Downing
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy the way that Jane Hamilton weaves her stories. This one was even more interesting as part of it is set in Wisconsin where we both live. I liked the way she went back and forth from childhood to adulthood and back for the main character and his friends.
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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...
Karen Nelson
I've read two of Hamilton's novels, and enjoyed them, prior to this one. I don't enjoy giving a poor rating to any novel, but I just did not enjoy this book. I did not enjoy 349 pages of waiting for death. I did not enjoy any of the characters, as none of them were likeable. I did not enjoy the writing, and found it to be excessively boring in details. I made myself finish reading it quickly once I passed the halfway mark, to put it behind me. It left me dissatisfied in every way.
Jeanne Cummings
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jane Hamilton - making the ordinary seem extraordinary. She absolutely nails human behavior and human emotion here.
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
TL;DR: A thoughtful, beautifully-written meander. Hamilton's characters are flawed and interesting. She has a magic way of making real life seem fantastical. This wasn't a quick read for me.

This isn't the type of book I normally elect to read - it's not dripping with satire and dry wit; there's no magic or princesses or plot devices that save the characters just in time. Nothing really noteworthy happens, on a major scale, in the entire book. I read some reviews on here that felt this made the b
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
Janet Mahlum
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This probably isn't really a 5-star book, more like a 4+-star. But I rounded it up to help offset negative ratings. It is a beautiful coming of age story. I listened to it on cassettes and it didn't take long to hear. The style of writing is lyrical, beautiful phrases and word pictures. Although there is a lot of tension in the story, there is an element of peacefulness about it, like a mother whispering, "It's all right. Everything is going to be okay."
Sarah Beth
May 02, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I slogged through this book for a book-club.

The first challenge to completing the read is the fine-pointed, crowded, and pompous font, specifically chosen and explained in the back of the book, as well as the long chapters and paragraphs that made me think Jane Hamilton was actually anti-reader. The second is the dreariness of the main character and the limping plot line that develops slowly, if at all.
It's essentially a coming-of-age story about Walter, a man who finally comes of age at middl
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
Romerei Macarse
Mar 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sarah B.
Apr 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-away
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'
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Juliet Wilson
Jun 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
Oct 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 is the author most recently of The Excellent Lombards and The Book of Ruth, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction, as well as A Map of the World, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and named one of the top ten books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, the Miami Herald, and People. Both The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World have been select ...more
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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.”
“Life, he knew, had meaning and was fully possessed only as it was remembered and reshaped.” 0 likes
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