World Cup Cricket has us in its grip. Some of us are bowled over; some of us are going in to bat for the team and the rest of us thought we’d just read a novel where the dull thwack of bat against ball forms an integral part of the plot.
Bowled for a maiden. No such good novel exists. Well maybe one that isn’t too dire: The Taliban Cricket Club.
If we widen the search to include other team sports, like rugby, there’s Lloyd Jones’ novel about the 1905 All Blacks – The Book of Fame. And soccer/football has Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch in its line-up. But it’s slim pickings. There isn’t even very much in the way of mediocre/rubbish team sport fiction writing, which is weird.
But sports where individuals take part have generated many more novels. Want a novel about running? Award winning Running the Rift is set in Rwanda and is an uplifting book about genocide and running and healing. And if that doesn’t appeal, you can choose from 88 other novels on running, and I include Haruko Murakami’s What I Talk About when I Talk About Running because even when Murakami writes non-fiction, it reads like poetry.
Swimmers have quite a good choice as well: Herman Koch and Summer House with Swimming Pool, Alan Hollinghurst and The Swimming Pool Library and The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society with its link to the author of Peter Pan. And cyclists have a large range of novels related to their sport. Gold by Chris Cleave is probably the pick of the bunch, but for a gentle read there is the popular A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar.
Multitudes of people play (and support) team sports, and just as many people are avid fiction readers. Why then are there so few novels with a team sport theme? Am I missing something here?
Truth to tell, the only cricketing reference that I remember from all my years of reading, is the dull thwack of bat on ball drifting up from the gently sloping lawn in front of the homestead in Mary Wesley’s novel The Camomile Lawn.
And that will do very nicely for me.