by Gerard Siggins (Author)
As someone with no knowledge of, or interest in rugby, I tried to find a more suitable reviewer for this book. Having failed, I decided to “tackle” it in the same way I approach all books, as a fan of fiction, rather than one of rugby.
Initially, I felt reassured, because the main character, Eoghan, was equally ignorant about rugby. When he starts school at Castleknock College, he must quickly learn. As his new friend, Alan, explains the game, I thought, “Hey, maybe you don’t need to be a rugby fan to enjoy this book.” Alan’s lessons, however, soon became tedious and didactic, and I found myself skipping through them to get to the actual story.
This involves a mystery surrounding Eoghan’s grandfather, Dixie Madden, star of the school senior team in 1964. But why do the pupils and staff seem to know more about Eoghan’s grandfather than he does? Though the beginning of the book lacks significant conflict, the mystery does drive the plot forward, and I felt myself being drawn into the tale.
Unfortunately, the “reveal” was a bit disappointing.
The book is not without its flaws – the writer breaks the “show not tell” rule a little too often, and although the name-dropping of Irish rugby stars will give the book a contemporary feel, it will also quickly date the book. There is a sub-plot with a supernatural element which I found interesting and distracting (in a good way). It did, however, feel like something that was added in to substantiate the plot, rather than something which was an integral part of it.
Sports stories, by their very nature, are formulaic – the underdog striving against the odds to make the winning score in the last second of the final. But soap operas and fairy tales could be accused of the same thing, and both can be thoroughly satisfying to the right audience. This is why I recommend this book. Sports stories may not convert bookish people to sport, but they do sometimes convert sporty people to books. Rugby fans will love it.