Hugo Hamilton (2003) The Speckled People.

Some books you don’t want to finish and this is one of them. Hugo Hamilton’s memoir is a prize worth keeping. It's a shame it's a library book.  Pre-adolescent Hugo tells the story of his father and mother and his growing family in words that bite. His father is a nationalist that refuses to let the children speak English or play with children that speak English or have anything to do with the English even though there are few people in Dublin in the 1960s that speak the pure Irish/Gaelic language he demands of them. His children can speak German, the language of their mother and they can speak English outside their home—to outsiders that fail to understand the importance of their own language. Speaking English at home means being beaten with a stick reserved for that purpose by his father. Outside he and his brothers and sisters are taunted and bullied and called Nazis. Hugo practices laughing like the Nazis in films and not caring. He puts into practise his new identity on the dog that barks at waves and thinks he’s drowned it. His mother’s backstory of her enslavement and rape by the Nazi boss--she wasn’t Jewish, (not that that should matter) just an Aryan office girl sent to work in an office in Holland she worked for-- is skilfully woven into his account of their up and down family life. Hugo is forced to wear lederhosen and hand-knit Aran sweaters claiming to make his childhood-self Irish on top and German at the bottom. Near the end of the book he observes with the light falling into his room, ‘They would see spots all over my face from the raindrops on the glass. They would see a speckled face and say that I was diseased. Nobody would want to touch me. The foghorn is still going, but it sounds more tired, as if it has been saying the same word all day and now it’s getting fed up with it’ (p271). You could never get fed up with such radiance.