The Sailor in the Wardrobe

Hugo Hamilton

Following on from the success of ‘The Speckled People’, Hugo Hamilton’s new memoir has at its heart the story of a summer he spent working at a local harbour in Ireland, at a time of tremendous fear and mistrust.

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 World War II, 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

    • Praise for ‘The Speckled People’:
    • ‘Hamilton’s first masterpiece. To read “The Speckled People” is to remember why great writing matters. A book for our times, and probably of all time.’ Joseph O’Connor
    • ‘A wonderful book…thoughtful and compelling, smart and original, beautifully written…Hamilton has done an awful lot more with his strange and oddly beautiful childhood than just write it down.’ Nick Hornby, Sunday Times
    • ‘This is the most gripping book I’ve read in ages. And it’s beautifully written: what could have been safe memories are made new-lived and real in this fascinating, disturbing and often very funny memoir.’ Roddy Doyle
    • ‘An extraordinary achievement…a wonderful, subtle, problematic and humane book. It is about Ireland as well as about a particular family, but it is also about alternatives and complexities anywhere. It is about the speckled nature of the world, which, for all its violence, remains fresh to its perceivers.’ George Szirtes, Irish Times
    • ‘This story about a battle over language and defeat “in the language wars” is also a victory for eloquent writing, crafty and cunning in its apparent simplicity.’ Hermione Lee, Guardian