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The Laments by George Hagen
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The Laments (2004)

by George Hagen

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» See also 3 mentions

English (10)  Dutch (2)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Captivating, but I'm not sure I liked it--if that makes any sense. ( )
  LaurelPoe | Dec 25, 2017 |
A thoroughly disappointing bargain-bin pick. Hagen's novel reads like a paean to the burgeoning sexuality of his adolescence, with awkward fondlings and couplings every three pages. His politics are trite and his portrait of ex-pat Rhodesians living in the US is shallow and one-dimensional. The ending is a triumph of loose ends being tied up in each other too neatly and too completely -- I finished the book with a sense of irritated disbelief. ( )
  50MinuteMermaid | Nov 14, 2013 |
A subtle and delicate story about a relatively normal family, changed and defined by the travels they undertake. The story basically tells about the effect all these travels have on the eldest son - from his birth through late teens. The book, especially in the beginning, is mainly a series of anecdotes through which the character of the family members become clear.
The language is vivid and lively with beautifully constructed sentences.
Sometimes the rhythm of the book slacks a bit (coincidently when they are in England and in the States?). Still it is a very beautiful book that I highly recommend. ( )
  TLievens | Aug 30, 2011 |
Sometimes a book languishes unread on my bookshelves for what seems like millenia. There's no predicting when I will possibly pick it up and read it; just knowing that it is there waiting is a sort of balm to my soul. In the case of The Laments by George Hagen, the book had been tucked away for years when I inadvertantly bought a second copy of it at a used bookstore this summer. Yes, I do that sometimes. On the plus side, I consider it confirmation that the book definitely appeals to me (twice). And I've made it a practice to consider it a nudge from the universe to actually get on it and read the book already.

The Lament family is peripatetic in the extreme, traveling around the world, settling briefly, before heading off again in search of a place that fits them better than the one that they are in. Opening with the birth of their first son, a fat and happy little boy, there is no doubt that the family's luck is all going to be bad or impossible from the moment a mentally disturbed woman whose own infant is sickly and melancholy kidnaps the cheery and chubby Lament baby instead of accepting her own. The only recourse, of course, is to adopt her son and pretend that he is their biological child. Will, the secretly adopted Lament, spends the next many years trying to fit in with his boisterous and rambunctious family. His struggle to fit in is a mirror in miniature of his family's quest to fit in as they move from Rhodesia to Bahrain, England, and America. Father Howard is a creative and frustrated engineer with a strange affinity for valves while mother Julia is an artistic and somewhat apathetic sort. The twins, who have a deep and unexplainable twin connection, are hellions and apt to create chaos and leave upheaval in their wakes no matter where the family lives.

The Laments start out the book full of hopes and aspirations, unrealistic though they may be, and they end it rather more downtrodden and definitely downwardly mobile than they started it. On the whole, the book is a tragedy but there is such wonderful dry humor and forthright writing in it that it is nothing but a pleasure to read. I truly did laugh out loud in more than one instance and if the terrible happenings quotient is higher than I'd usually find realistic, it is entertaining all the way. The characters are quirky and eccentric but they inspire great sympathy in the reader as they go through their lives. Exaggeration is rife and the explicit social commentary is hard to miss but even though I suspect Hagen of condemning my life, I still thoroughly enjoyed his novel. ( )
  whitreidtan | Dec 3, 2010 |
This novel tracking the lives of a globe-trotting family paints a poignant picture of the expat lifestyle and the desperate quest to belong. Julia and Howard Lament are both trying to overcome the shortcomings of their upbringing, and find in each other all that they ever wanted. When their first bouncing happy baby is kidnapped by a troubled young woman in Rhodesia, they find themselves adopting her sickly premature son. Thus begins a life of uncertainty for both Julia and Howard as well as their son Will. Constantly on the move searching for a better job, a better lifestyle, a sense of home, the Laments instead find themselves drifting further and further from each other and from the life they once dreamed of living.

I was impressed by the writing style, and the way characters in the story gradually revealed more and more about themselves as the novel progressed. At heart, I found this a sad book, and was pained by the Laments efforts to create a home for themselves in an ever-changing world. Hagen does a wonderful job of conveying the sense of disconnection that pervades the expat community even today. I highly recommend this debut novel. ( )
  ForeignCircus | Jan 19, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Hagenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Versluys, MarijkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
God setteth the solitary in families. -PSALMS
Dedication
For Terri, my love
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Perhaps the Lament baby knew that his parents couldn't name him.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081297218X, Paperback)

Meet the Laments—the affably dysfunctional globetrotting family at the center of George Hagen’s exuberant debut novel.

Howard is an engineer who dreams of irrigating the Sahara and lives by the motto “Laments move!” His wife Julia is a fiery spirit who must balance her husband’s oddly peripatetic nature with unexpected aspirations of her own. And Will is the “waif with a paper-thin heart” who is given to Howard and Julia in return for their own child who has been lost in a bizarre maternity ward mishap. As Will makes his way from infancy to manhood in a family that careens from continent to continent, one wonders where the Laments will ever belong.

In Bahrain, Howard takes a job with an oil company and young Will makes his first friend. But in short order he is wrenched off to another land, his mother’s complicated friendship with the American siren Trixie Howitzer causing the family to bolt. In Northern Rhodesia, during its last days as a white colony, the twin enfants terribles Marcus and Julius are born, and Will falls for the gardener’s daughter, a girl so vain that she admires her image in the lid of a biscuit tin. But soon the family’s life is upturned again, thie time by their neighbor Major Buck Quinn, with his suburban tirades against black self-rule. Envisioning a more civilized life on “the sceptered isle,” the Laments board an ocean liner bound for England. Alas, poor Will is greeted by the tribal ferocity of his schoolmates and a society fixated on the Blitz. No sooner has he succumbed to British pop culture in the guise of mop-top Sally Byrd and her stacks of 45s, than the Laments uproot themselves once again, and it’s off to New Jersey, where life deals crisis and opportunity in equal measure.

Undeniably eccentric, the Laments are also universal. Every family moves on in life. Children grow up, things are left behind; there is always something to lament. Through the Lament’s restlessness, responses to adversity, and especially their unwieldy love for one another, George Hagen gives us a portrait of every family that is funny, tragic, and improbably true.


From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:02 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Meet the Laments - the affably dysfunctional globetrotting family at the center of George Hagen's debut novel." "Howard is an engineer who dreams of irrigating the Sahara and lives by the motto "Laments move!" His wife, Julia, is a fiery spirit who must balance her husband's oddly peripatetic nature with unexpected aspirations of her own. And Will is the "waif with a paper-thin heart" given to Howard and Julia in return for their own child, who is lost in a bizarre maternity-ward mishap. As Will makes his way from infancy to manhood in a family that careens from continent to continent, one wonders where the Laments will ever belong." "In Bahrain, Howard takes a job with an oil company and young Will makes his first friend. But in short order he is wrenched off to another land, his mother's complicated friendship with the American siren Trixie Howitzer causing the family to bolt. In Northern Rhodesia, during its last days as a white colony, the twin enfants terribles Marcus and Julius are born, and an adolescent Will falls for the gardener's daughter, a girl so vain that she admires her image in the lid of a biscuit tin. But soon the family's life is upturned again, this time by their neighbor Major Buck Quinn, with his suburban tirades against black self-rule. Envisioning a more civilized life on "the sceptered isle," the Laments board an ocean liner bound for England. Alas, poor Will is greeted by the tribal ferocity of his schoolmates and a society fixated on the Blitz. No sooner has he succumbed to British pop culture in the guise of mop-top Sally Byrd and her stacks of 45s, than the Laments uproot themselves once again, and it's off to New Jersey, where life deals crisis and opportunity in equal measure." "Undeniably eccentric, the Laments are also universal. Every family moves on in life. Children grow up, things are left behind; there is always something to lament. Through the Lament's restlessness, responses to adversity, and especially their unwieldy love for one another, George Hagen gives us a portrait of every family that is funny, tragic, and improbably true."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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