Sunday, 3 March 2013

CricketGeek Book Review: Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew - Shehan Karunatilaka

As a former mystery wrist-spinner, I was eager to read the story about a Sri Lankan mystery spinner, even if he did bowl with his left arm. I was expecting a good cricket book, but instead got a very good book, that happened to feature cricket.

The book came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. I believe that the best novels are ones that take the reader into a different time/place. I loved Crime and Punishment because when I read it I became Raskolnikov. When I read Live Bodies, I became Josef Mandl. Jane Eyre and The Bronze Horseman had a similar effect. While reading Chinaman, I was so transfixed that I could almost smell the Sri Lankan streets.

The characters have a richness that is hard to find in other novels. The three main characters all have twists and reveal new sides to themselves regularly. The lead character, WG Karunasena, undertakes a moral journey that would feel at home in a Dostoyevsky novel.

Often books with exceptionally deep characters sacrifice the plot. While there was moments where the book dragged, it generally moved quite quickly, and some of the twists in the plot were both unexpected and interesting.

Overall this is one of the best books I've ever read. The three books that it feels the most like are three of my favourites, A Painted House by John Grisham, Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones and Live Bodies by Maurice Gee. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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