The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser


There is much to admire about this book, but at half way through, I gave it up. I want to read Michelle de Kretser’s two recent novels, but this was available at the library, so I gave it a try. It is set in Sri Lanka and begins with a first person narrative by a man born in 1902. His description of himself and his family paint unpleasant portraits, told with a light, amusing touch that is particularly uncomfortable, given the characters. The next section changes to third person while the characters remain the same and the unpleasantness becomes clearer. The characters seem to be either venal, a victim of the venal characters or both.

Her descriptive phrases are outstanding. “Leaves mocked gravity, rising into the air. There they resolved themselves into a billow of jade butterflies.” Another was from Sam’s narrative, “This morning the sight of a grizzled face in the mirror so startled me that for a moment I feared an intruder had slipped into my room.”

This is undoubtedly an excellent book. I just can’t read it now.

Michelle de Kretser, The Hamilton Case, Little, Brown and Company, 2004, 304 pages. Available at the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

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