'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 2 September 2010

Review: Spinner

Even if you don’t like cricket and you’re not sure if this book will appeal to you – stick with me here. I don’t care for the game, yet this book has managed to find a cosy little spot in my heart.

When it was delivered to my door, I looked at it curiously. What would I think of this one? I requested the book from its publishers, Fremantle Press, but I wasn’t quite sure why. I can’t stand cricket, yet there was something about this novel that made me ask for it to be sent through. There was something there, a little niggling feeling that this was a book I should read.

And I’m so glad I followed that feeling.

From the all-important first paragraph, I was hooked and my mystery was solved. This is not a cricket book; it is a beautiful story.

Spinner is the story of a young boy, David Donald. David’s grandfather, father and uncle were all cricket players, and he is set to follow in their footsteps, as an extraordinarily talented spin bowler.

Set in Western Australia post-World War I, a time when men were men and boys were expected to behave like men, we are taken along as David is transformed from a farm boy to a world-famous member of the Australian cricket team.

Growing up working on the family farm with his Grandad, David is taken by the mysterious Uncle Michael, himself an expert spinner – of tales, that is. A silver-tongued liar, gambler and ladies man from way back, Mike talks David’s way into the trials for the national cricket team, despite the fact he is just twelve years of age. When they see what this boy can do, his fate is sealed.
From there, we follow the trials and successes of David Donald’s first professional cricket matches. We read in disbelief as Uncle Mike gambles his way through test match cities and involves his young guardian in all sorts of trouble, cheer David on as he battles to be accepted by his team members and cry when the mysteries of his parents’ lives are unravelled.

Through the stories of these believable characters, the story shows life between the wars as a time when only the toughest survived. Although it is marketed as a young adult novel, it appeals to a wide audience: young adult men and women right through to not-so-young adult men and women. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, anyone looking for a genuinely gripping and inspiring tale.
Whether you enjoy the game or not, you can’t deny that cricket has been a huge influence on Australian culture. And no one could explain that better than Spinner’s Uncle Mike: “It’s a sublime game from another era. A game that lasts days and days. That men dedicate their lives to. I like it because of its tricks. Its lies and contradictions. That it seems so slow, but can change in an instant. I love all the games within a game. The little stories within the grander one.”

How can you resist that? With the game used as a tool to narrate David’s life and his challenges as he is forced to become a man, even the details of the matches are too well written to skim over. Never before have I been so intrigued at how a cricket ball is spun or cared for the ins and outs of the game – proof that Elliott can spin a great yarn if he can hook someone like me with this subject!

Title: Spinner
Author: Ron Elliott
Publisher: Fremantle Press, $27.95 RRP
Publication Date: September 2010
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781921361937
For ages: Young adult
Type: Novel

Teachers' Notes
This book is available online