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The Short History of a Prince by Jane…
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The Short History of a Prince

by Jane Hamilton

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5501118,183 (3.5)1 / 23
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
While reading this book I felt a little as if the story had been tossed into a blender, spun around once or twice, then dumped back out again and glued to the cover. The story was good and interesting, but the jumping around was somewhat distracting in just a few places. I have no problems with a book that tells you someone's history in little chunks, in fact I find that kind of storytelling fascinating because it brings questions to mind about what happened in the past or how said past connects to the future, however when you add huge a flashback or memory to the mix, it changes the way the book reads.

The characters were all written well and were true to themselves. There were certain people that you just wanted to punch in the face, there were certain people that you wished you could hug tightly while reminding them that everything would be okay, and there were people that you never really felt one way or the other about. All of those kinds of things are true to life and speak to the quality of care taken when creating and maintaining the characters involved. Walter's transition from being a gay teen-dancer dealing with the death of his older brother to being a gay adult learning to become a teacher in a rural setting is very well written and the relationships that he maintained through that time frame are also interesting to observe.

Overall, I read the book because I was curious about what would happen in Walter's life, not because I found the writing to be groudbreaking or beautiful or a work of perfection. There were times when I simply wanted to hurry along and move on to other books, but I just couldn't give up on the characters. High praise must to be given for good writing in that regard. ( )
  mirrani | Aug 4, 2013 |
I enjoy Jane Hamilton’s novels, partly because I can usually “place” them – she typically writes about Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, and partly because she can so beautifully expose the dynamics of a family under stress. “The Book of Ruth” is probably my most favorite of her works, this book, about Walter McCloud, is lesser known (Oprah didn’t put it on her list) but excellent as well. Here, we follow a coming of age of Walter, a young man growing up gay in the 1970’s. During his sophomore year of high school, his brother Daniel dies of cancer, while Walter comes to terms with his homosexuality. Walter is a dancer, striving to be the best in the world, but held back by his middling talent.

We follow him into the 90’s when he teaches poetry at a small school in Wisconsin, and finally comes into his own. This book is a gentle coming of age story that left me smiling when I finished reading. ( )
  bataviabirders | Feb 18, 2012 |
First of all, I’ve never read anything by Jane Hamilton, despite the fact that her books have often caught my eye in bookstores. [The Short History of a Prince] is not her best known book, nor her most recent. (It was published in 1998.) But I found it to be beautiful written, and I am so glad that I was nudged to pick up this book.

The Short History of a Prince provides two points of entry into Walter McCloud’s life. Half of the chapters are set in 1972-73 when Walter is a high school student taking ballet lessons and dealing with his older brother’s serious illness. Interspersed with those chapters are chapters set in 1995-96 when Walter has recently moved to Otten, Wisconsin to teach high school English. At both points in his life, Walter faces identity challenges. As a teenager, he seems to be losing his footing. His family is rocked by his brother’s illness, and Walter loses an important foundation due to the frequent absences of his parents. His relationship with his friends and his involvement in ballet also shift during this year. Plus, he has his first homosexual relationship. In middle age, Walter is still trying to negotiate who he is (though with a bit more wisdom than before). He moves from New York City to Otten and faces the possible loss of a lakeside house that has served as a gathering place for his family for years.

There are so many threads running through this story. It is an honest look at the challenges of growing up as a homosexual in a small town. It is a story of extended family (Walter’s aunt Sue Rawson is a strong force in his life) and of a small town neighborhood of the kind that seems to have almost disappeared. It is a heart-wrenching look at illness and a tender story of relationships. And, I know that I said it before, but it is beautifully written. ( )
1 vote porch_reader | Jul 17, 2011 |
I enjoyed the first half of this book, but it is about a third too long. I had to force myself to finish it, and I don't know why I bothered. ( )
  bookweaver | Aug 16, 2010 |
Amazingly this book was written by a woman and yet she seemed to inhabit the skin of an adolescent /homosexual man. You do not love Walter and then you realize Walter was 14 years old struggling with his own sexuality and the death of his brother. The back and froth between the the 1970's and the 1990's was great. Jane Hamilton is a very interesting author who pushes the boundaries. Great book.
  shazjhb | Aug 11, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
This book as far as I can see- went absulutely nowhere.
Jane Hamilton's writing is positively irritating. You have no idea how hard I tried to actually care about any of her character. They just were not believable . And she- Jane Hamilton keeps going on and on and on and on.
Somewhere around page 200 I finally detected a hint- a vague HINT of a PLOT- but hell- she's got no time for anything that mundane. OHH NO-her characters are so shallow and her writing is so superficial and yet she goes on.... and on... and on.
By thetime I got to the end I truly felt like a record needle that slides right across the record because in this case there ain't nothing very good to listen to.
BORING. PRETENTIOUS< and RUN AT THE MOUTH.
and so it goes.
Judy Mann
added by JudyMann | editInternet, Judy Mann (Mar 18, 2010)
 
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Why Walter woke up earlier than usual on August 10, Saturday, he couldn't first explain.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385479484, Paperback)

Robert Sean Leonard (Much Ado About Nothing, Dead Poet's Society) brings a dramatic dimension to the bittersweet story of Walter McCloud, who has high hopes of becoming a ballet dancer. Leonard's flexible voice captures the thoughts and feelings of Walter both as a teenager and as a thirty-something high school teacher. The story begins with the star, an aspiring adolescent ballet dancer, coming to terms with his lack of talent when he is chosen to be the Prince in a third-rate production of the Nutcracker, while his friends dance lead roles in Chicago. The same winter, Walter has his first homosexual experience and his older brother becomes terminally ill. These profound events will haunt Walter for 20 years as he focuses on his coming to terms with his past tragedies and present shortcomings--making for a moving and often funny tale of forgiveness and understanding. Curiously, it is not his love of Balanchine, music and other refined aesthetics that restore a floundering Walter. The anchor he finds is a place, the family summer home on a lake in Wisconsin. It is Hamilton's ability to juxtapose the remarkable against the unremarkable that gives this work its poignancy and grace. --Anne Depue (Running Time: 4 Hours; Four Cassettes)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:48 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Introduced as a child to the genius of Balanchine and the lyricism of Tchaikovsky, a boy has aspired to dancing the role of the prince in The Nutcracker. Walter McCloud is a boy with dreams unlike most. Introduced as a child to the genius of Balanchine and the lyricism of Tchaikovsky, Walter has always aspired to be a dancer. As he grows older, it becomes clear that despite his desire, he lacks the talent, and he faces the painful knowledge that his more gifted friends have already surpassed him. Soon, however, that pain is overshadowed when his older brother, Daniel, finds a strange lump on his neck and Walter realizes that a happy family can change overnight. The year that follows transforms the McClouds, as they try to hold together in the face of the fearful consequences of Daniel's illness, and Walter makes discoveries about himself and his friendships that will change him forever. Decades later, after Walter has left home and returned, he must come to terms with the memories of that year, and grapple once and for all with the challenge of carving out a place for himself in this all-too-familiar world. A moving story of the torments of sexuality and the redemptive power of family and friendship, The Short History of a Prince confirms Jane Hamilton's place as a preeminent novelist of our time.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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