cover image That Time in Malomba

That Time in Malomba

James Hamilton-Paterson, Paterson James Hamilton. Soho Press, $9.95 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-939149-42-1

Hamilton-Paterson is an excellent English writer barely known here, whose Playing with Water , published nearly three years ago, received almost no attention until a recent NYTBR rave review by William Gass. He is quite a discovery. Malomba , published in England as The Bell-Boy , is a beautifully written comic study of Westerners at sea in the Third World, with characters and situations very much out of Evelyn Waugh, but suffused with a kindly, lyrical light. Tessa Hemony is a relic of the '60s, wandering the world in search of enlightenment and a guru to heal her perpetual backache. She winds up with her teenage children in Malomba, spiritual center to 39 religions, in a lovingly evoked country that could be Thailand. Here the family is taken in hand by Laki, the wily, sensuous bellboy of the decrepit Nirvana Hotel, and both sides proceed to show each other, elegantly, what depths of misunderstanding lie beneath their first impressions. Malomba is not a profound book, but a witty, deeply humane one that gives enormous pleasure by its ready sympathies and felicitous prose. And Soho, happily, has more of Hamilton-Paterson's work in store. (Sept.)