Specimen

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Specimen: Personal Essays

Specimen is currently shortlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards. Winners will be announced on 12 May.

A father rollerblading to church in his ministerial robes, a university student in a leotard sprinting through fog, a trespass notice from Pak’nSave, a beautiful unborn goat in a jar . . .

In scenarios ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Madison Hamill looks back at her younger selves with a sharp eye. Was she good or evil? Ignorant or enlightened? What parts of herself did she give up in order to forge ahead in school, church, work, and relationships, with a self that made sense to others?

With wit and intelligence, these shape-shifting essays probe the ways in which a person’s inner and outer worlds intersect and submit to one another. It is a brilliantly discomfiting, vivid and funny collection in which peace is found in the weirdest moments.

I never felt that I was looking at fine writing – only at astonishing writing.

— Elizabeth Knox

Madison Hamill writes with rare precision and bravery. Also she’s hilarious.

— Catherine Woulfe, The Spinoff

Specimen satisfyingly demonstrates the delights of the essay. Hamill is a stand-out voice in an era where whirlwind romances are actually one-night stands, where everyone seems on the autism spectrum, asexuality always a possibility, fried chicken ubiquitous, and where surrealist juxtapositions appear mysteriously in the midst of ordinary life. . . . Hamill’s great, no question.


— David Herkt, Sunday Star-Times

In short, it’s devastatingly good writing.

— Emma Gattey, Landfall Review