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James Hamilton-Paterson Biography

(1941– ), New Statesman, The Sunday Times, Gerontius, The Bell Boy, Seven-Tenths, Griefwork

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British novelist, born in Kent, educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He worked for several years as a teacher and journalist for the New Statesman and The Sunday Times. He received critical acclaim for Gerontius (1989; Whitbread Prize), a novel about the composer Edward Elgar. His subsequent novels include The Bell Boy (1990), set in south-east Asia, concerning the relationship between a middle-aged Englishwoman and a young Asian boy; Seven-Tenths (1992), about the Pacific Ocean; Griefwork (1993), set in an unnamed northern European city in the aftermath of the Second World War, and centring on the strange half-vegetable, half-human existence of Leon, the keeper of the Palm House in the city's botanical gardens; and Ghosts of Manila (1994), dealing with political corruption in the Philippines. Hamilton-Paterson is an elusive figure, who prefers to divide his time between the Far East and Italy; his novels are controlled and elegant exercises in style, structured around metaphorical conceits, which offer appealingly odd perspectives on the human condition.

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