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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Amazing Disgrace

James Hamilton-Paterson

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To purchase Amazing Disgrace

Title: Amazing Disgrace
Author: James Hamilton-Paterson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006
Length: 332 pages
Availability: Amazing Disgrace - US
Amazing Disgrace - UK
Amazing Disgrace - Canada
Amazing Disgrace - India

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good fun, great voice

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 4/11/2006 Patrick Ness
The Independent A 12/12/2006 Richard Canning
The Spectator A 30/12/2006 Ian Thomson
Sunday Telegraph . 7/1/2007 Toby Clements
Sunday Times . 12/11/2006 Tom Deveson
TLS . 24/11/2006 Simon Baker

  From the Reviews:
  • "Cooking with Fernet Branca was a feast of outrageously ornate comic writing and inedible recipes. Amazing Disgrace is more of the same, but somehow less so. (...) Gerald carries an air of self-disgust (not least in an unfunny subplot involving penis enlargement and "empurpled" priapism). At one point, he is offered a huge amount of money to write a second Millie Cleat book. Filled with self-loathing, he at first accepts before finally deciding it's not worth it. Hamilton-Paterson, meanwhile, is a formidable literary writer who had a surprise comic hit, and here he is writing a so-so sequel." - Patrick Ness, The Guardian

  • "Hamilton-Paterson's genius in what must surely become a series lies in the gear-changes in Gerald's accounts of himself. There's room for farce, awful puns (a porn video entitled What-The Butler's Sore ?), non-sequiturs and scabrous prejudice. Every reader will laugh steadily." - Richard Canning, The Independent

  • "(A)nother hilarious saga of misfortunes and misunderstandings. (...) The Gerald Samper sagas (of which a third is apparently in the pipeline) are very different from Hamilton-Patersonís other novels, with their beautifully transparent prose and enchanted explorations of other worlds (notably, the Philippines). Yet the same elegant, cultivated sensibility is at work here. Hamilton-Paterson, one of our finest prose stylists, is a national treasure; and Amazing Disgrace, though perhaps less uproariously funny than Fernet Branca, is a gorgeous plum pudding of a novel." - Ian Thomson, The Spectator

  • "This second tranche is just as funny (.....) In truth the plot is not the principal pleasure of this book. You do not find yourself hurrying to find out what happens, but rather drifting slowly through, savouring the humour in Gerald's splenetic asides. (...) This is not an important book, but it is bad-tempered good fun and is clever enough to be constantly stimulating." - Toby Clements,Sunday Telegraph

  • "Good verbal fun abounds. (...) The book ends in undignified death and destruction. Is this still comedy or something nastier ? Like the face that Millie thinks she sees on the sea bed, it all depends on the angle youíre looking from." - Tom Deveson, Sunday Times

  • "One problem with a dislikeable narrator is that, if he is presented too convincingly, we have a dislikeable novel. (...) A more serious flaw is the novel's lack of plot. It relies for everything on the emotional wreck that is Gerald, and that proves insufficient. (...) Amazing Disgrace is something of a let-down." - Simon Baker, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Amazing Disgrace continues the story of professional ghostwriter Gerald Samper from Cooking with Fernet Branca. He's still living in his out-of-the-way Italian home and while neighbour Marta seems to have disappeared for good when things pick up, that's only one less irritant for Gerald, who seems to be drawn to irritation like moths to a flame (and with similar results). He is still ghostwriting -- the most recent project being the memoir of a one-armed grandmother who has set all sorts of sailing records -- as ghastly a person as all of Gerald's pop-culture subjects are. And, yes, he is also still cooking as creatively as ever: the book begins with the vindaloo blancmage ("an intriguing marriage of the incandescent and the gelid") he had for lunch sitting about as well as one would imagine.
       One-armed Millie Cleat's memoir needs a few last touches -- she's discovered her spiritual side -- and as usual Gerald is displeased that, soon to reach a milestone birthday (forty, he claims at first, but as someone points out: "I always thought you came on a bit world-weary for a stripling of forty"), he's still writing about sporting heroes (and specifically writing the nonsense he has to about them):

My books are nothing but cunningly crafted lies, yet avoid being honest fiction.
       Unfortunately, he seems quite good at it, and Millie's spiritual awakening probably demands yet another book -- but here at least the reward may be great enough to free him from the horrible ghostwriting business once and for all.
       Meanwhile, Gerald has also been experimenting with a course of exotic male enhancement pills which, somewhat to his surprise, seem to have the desired effect -- though, of course, as it turns out not quite in the way he hoped for. (When he eventually consults a doctor he explains that he was "asked to look into it for one of the Sunday magazines" -- whereupon the doctor notes: "I've had several writers come in here and give much the same account. Odd how I never seem to see any of their articles in print. No doubt I read the wrong newspapers.")
       Yes, Gerald is in for quite a bit of disgrace and embarrassment, managing everything from locking himself inside his absent neighbour's house (while helpfully trying to change the locks on the doors) to several instances of inappropriately relieving himself. But he owns up to everything (to the reader at least; some of his acquaintances are not given the full or accurate story). And, except for the sales of his horrible books, most things only go about as right as his recipes (i.e. not very -- 'badger Wellington may sound promising, but ...). By the end he's lost even his secluded abode (in quite spectacular but fairly typical fashion).
       The pleasure of this novel -- as of Cooking with Fernet Branca -- is in the singular voice of the narrator: refined, trying to appear insouciant, and hapless -- all misguided attitude. Looking down upon almost all around him Gerald is also dreadfully dependent on them all, seeking company and approval, trying to keep up a certain image; needless to say, the laugh is often on him. Gerald enjoys playing games, yet is always precariously close to his victims seeing through him -- except that they're almost all such a dull and self-centred lot that they manage to remain oblivious even to the most obvious. And there is a heart there -- he even falls into so-often cursed neighbour Marta's arms when she reappears on the scene.
       All of Amazing Disgrace is funny, and some of it is very funny indeed. Hamilton-Paterson has the voice and attitude down perfectly, making for a great comic figure in Gerald (and one who associates with quite the cast of characters). It is, it must be said, all a bit flimsy too -- the joy is in the telling, while the tale itself is rather simple (though admittedly with quite a few good piece of invention). But it's fine comedy, a good piece of entertainment.

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Amazing Disgrace: Reviews: James Hamilton-Paterson: Other books by James Hamilton-Paterson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author James Hamilton-Paterson was born in 1941. He lives in Austria.

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© 2006-2011 the complete review

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