[Review]Chinaman: The legend of Pradeep Mathew

Chinaman: The legend of Pradeep MathewChinaman: The legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not for the cricket novice, despite what the narrator claims near the books beginning. If you are like me, and have followed international cricket from the periphery for many years, this book can serve as a useful jump start to that cricket obsession brewing beneath anyone who has sat through a full days play – even if only from your armchair. I am just that kind kind of armchair fan, and this novel sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole that I have yet to climb out of.

This book is long. It reads long. Like a drawn out fifth day of a test with no result in sight. Be prepared to get yourself heavily invested in the Sri Lankan Civil War, its cricket team’s history, the urban layout of Colombo, arrack, Sinhala slang, and impossibly long surnames. If any of that interests you, then dig in. There will be times you will want to end it. But just as you begin to lose interest it will drag you back with some cricketing anecdote from the 1950s that is just too good leave, you have to dive deeper. The fictional elements of the mysterious Pradeep Mathew are interwoven so seamlessly with actual cricket history that by the novel’s conclusion it is difficult to dissect the two. I found myself checking historical scorecards for a mystery spinner that exists only in the mind of the author.

If you are looking to reinvigorate your interest in cricket, this is the book for you. But if you never followed a World Cup, read a Wisden Almanack, or scrolled Cricinfo for hours, I would advise to stay clear until your cricket knowledge is up to snuff.

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