Monday, September 20, 2010
The Hamilton Case
Sometimes my normally optimistic self knows for sure that a book that I worship has gone out of print. I read The Hamilton Case by Michele de Kretser when it was first released in 2004 and it has remained a favorite ever since. It's a book that I save to give to people who appreciate a truly marvelous, psychologically intricate novel. There are tons of books to gift or recommend but this is one of the special ones for me. It's very important to me that whomever I give it to is going to love it as much as I did. My guess is that I use it to gauge how much I may have in common with someone. That's a lot of pressure to put on one little book. I haven't had anyone to pass it on to in a while but when that recently changed I was worried that after six years the book would no longer be available. Happily that is not the case. I can rest easy once again and continue to test the potential for near and dear in people.
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 the rest of his life. His future though still considerable will now be ruled by should have beens and whispers.
The life surrounding Sam: his family, his own shocking behavior, the British, the jungle, tea plantations, the social pettiness of the haves and the crippling poverty of the have nots are all conveyed with remarkable skill in this novel. Reminiscent in turn of the colonial life of The Jewel In The Crown (The Raj Quartet Vol 1) and the delusions of The Remains of the Day, The Hamilton Case is a masterful evocation of entangled lives and unfulfilled dreams.