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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry's gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners' team captain and Henry's best friend, realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. 

This book looked rather ominous at first but as it was chosen for my book group I thought I had better give it a go.  It started quite well with what appeared to be an interesting and engaging story about the baseball genius that was Henry and the chap that discovered him in small town America, Mike Schwartz.  Then suddenly it threw a curve ball (pun totally intended!) and went into a historical story starting back in 1880 regarding the life of Herman Melville the author of Moby Dick.  It eventually became clear why the story had taken this path as this was the background to help the reader understand the character Guert Affenlight, so I forgave the author this huge jump across stories and kept on reading, and at the time, enjoying the book.

Unfortunately, this set the tone for the book with the story jumping to and fro, backwards and forwards amongst the cast of characters.  Honestly, I just could not follow the flow very well.  I did wonder at first whether this could be put down to my zero knowledge of baseball and, indeed, of Moby dick but it suddenly dawned on me that I just did not care what happened to any of the characters, not one single one of them.  They all came across as self-obsessed, whinging, whineing, narcissistic, unbelievable and many other such descriptive terms.  I only forced myself to finish the book as it was for book group.  It is highly unusual for me to have this feeling as I normally care enough about the story and/or characters to at least know how it all ends up for them and will finish a book even if it is not the most enjoyable of stories as I like to find out how it is all wrapped up.  This book was all, rather conveniently, wrapped up but again I just did not care.

I should have listened to my gut feeling when I picked up the book that I would not enjoy it.  A complete waste of reading time for me and my recommendation is to not fall for the hype surrounding this book and just give it a miss.  Even the most ardent baseball fans will probably not care for it and I still don't have a clue about baseball - what does a shortstop do anyway!!!

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