The Guernesey Literary and Potato-peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer.This was a perfect summer read – in a summer that, weather-wise, was far from perfect. It was, by turns, amusing, poignant, enthralling, nerve-wracking, delightful and painfully tragic. The subject was neatly wrapped in a perfect post-war scenario which rode well with the time and place. The epistolary style helped one romp through the book in leaps and bounds, picking it up and laying it aside easily as other activites dictated. Sadly there will be no more, but this is a book to which it will be a joy to return. A summer read – but maybe a winter re-read? OVW
And now for Our Vicar:
I’m not sure that anyone on Mastermind has ever chosen “Somerset Cricket 1970 to 2000”. If they did then essential reading would come from three books I have read this year. Ian Botham is among the best known cricketers of all time, Marcus Trescothick has had quite an impact on Somerset and England cricket over the past decade, and Peter Roebuck isn’t a name that many outside of the Somerset Supporters club would probably have heard of. (I do slightly malign a man who scored around 25,000 runs for the county).
As a child I would travel with a friend on the bus to the County Ground at Taunton, the 201 from North Petherton cost, I believe, 8d for a child. I made my first visit their in 35 years earlier this year – and saw the above mentioned Trescothick score 150+. When we moved to my home county 3 years ago I reread Roebuck’s history of Somerset Cricket. That book only went up to the mid 70s, so having seen the county at play again I thought I would catch up with the story.
Prior to 1975 Somerset had never won any trophy or championship, Botham and Roebuck contributed to a successful decade. Trescothick has been at the forefront of a recent resurgence in the county’s fortunes.
Roebuck gives the best insight into what life is like as a county player – and has a clearer assessment of his contemporaries and a feel for both cricket life and the politics involved. Botham’s writing, predictably, focuses on Botham. Mainly on his achievements and occasionally on his weaknesses, the former are lauded, the later briefly regretted but, in his terms, usually justified. He doesn’t speak well of others, particularly Roebuck, “he was aloof and distant when his team needed encouragement… he didn’t lead by example, he wasn’t good enough for that”. Roebuck is more generous in his assessment of Botham.
Trescothick’s book is essentially about the breakdowns he has experienced (essentially, and very simply, a fear of being abroad). It is disappointing that despite confessing to having had the book written by a “ghost” he isn’t able to convey any real sense of what it means to be a major international sportsman.
I confess that this is a fairly specialist selection – many of Stuck-in-a-book readers may not have a clue how cricket is played, let alone the nuances of the Duckworth-Lewis system used to decide who has won a game that has started but not finished. Nevertheless it has been interesting to assess the judgments made by three of Somerset’s greatest exponents of the game in recent years – and, if I remember rightly, I have a copy somewhere of Viv Richard’s account of the same period.
Head On – Ian Botham: The Autobiography by Ian Botham
Coming Back To Me: The Autobiography by Marcus Trescothick