The Sailor in the Wardrobe

Hugo Hamilton

Young Hugo longs to be released from the confused identity he has inherited from his German mother and Irish father, but the backdrop of his mother’s shame at the hands of Allied soldiers in the aftermath of the Second World War, along with his German cousin’s mysterious disappearance somewhere on the Irish West Coast and the spiralling troubles in the north, seems determined to trap him in history. In an attempt to break free of his past, Hugo rebels against his father’s strict and crusading regime and turns to the exciting new world of rock and roll, still a taboo subject in the family home. His job at the local harbour, rather than offering a welcome respite from his speckled world, entangles him in a bitter feud between two fishermen – one Catholic, one Protestant. Hugo listens to the missing persons bulletins going out on the radio for his German cousin, and watches the unfolding harbour duel end in drowning before he can finally escape the ropes of history.

Reviews of The Sailor in the Wardrobe

  • ‘Hamilton patterns the institutions and structures of family life, with his father’s rules, curfews, punishments and terrifying rages, against the larger tyrannies of history. Simultaneously, he handles the conflicts, threats and aggressions of life outside home, much of which has to be kept secret, words of piercing clarity and immediacy convey his sense of guilt, in a world where terrible events continually hang above his head like the clouds drifting in from the sea. Hamilton’s Irish-German-English voice remains unique. The question is where he will project it next.’ Roy Foster, The Times

    ‘An interestingly astute and poetic book.’ Guardian

    ‘It must establish Hugo as a major writer of the very first order.’ Sunday Tribune

    ‘Hamilton can interpret his very personal and unique family memories in a way that strikes a universal chord.’ Irish Independent

    ‘Hamilton is a stylish novelist.’ Evening Herald

    ‘An already complex portrait has become richer, deeper, and sadder.’ Irish Times

    ‘A lyrical, moving account of growing up in a family where the only approved languages were Irish and German. An exquisitely written and often moving book.’ Image