Monday 5 January 2009

Our Vicar and Our Vicar's Wife

Apologies for silence of late - with my laptop firmly dead and buried, I have to wait until I'm in Magdalen to update my blog, or inconvenience some member of my household. As promised, Our Vicar's Wife and Our Vicar have written about their favourite books of 2008, just to prove that I'm not the only member of the family who has been known to be stuck in a book. The Carbon Copy promises one will follow...

Do comment and make them feel loved, won't you?
I'll kick off with Our Vicar's Wife, because she went for brevity - but we can't blame her, as she is currently in bed and Not Very Well.

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


  1. I hope OVW feels better soon. Another good review of The Guernesey Literary and Potato-peel Pie Society, and I am feeling left out as I haven't got a copy. Must get on to it.

    Growing up with a cricket obsessed father I appreciate the subject! I enjoyed the reviews: non-fiction and sport are a bit of a change on here!

  2. Loving the cricketing theme. I have the Botham and the Trescothick book to read on my shelf.
    Loved the GLandPPS aswell!
    Im a strange amalgamation of your parents simon!

  3. I haven't even seen a copy of TGL&PPPS and if I am to keep my resolution of NOT buying books till I have read all my unread ones then I must must stick my fingers in my ears and sing lalala in case OVW tempts. me. Luckily OV's choice does nothing for me at all. All I can say in his favour that at least he didn't discuss books preceded by the "F" word.
    It's great to have some guest speakers on your blog. we've heard so much about them that they feel like old friends.

  4. Spooky! I've just glanced at the "leave your comment" box and if I decide to type another comment, which I'm doing now, the verification word will be "blesses". Usually it's just gobbledygook!
    There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio...

  5. I'm a cricket tragic so I loved reading this post. Even though, here in Australia, Botham is about as popular as the Bodyline cricketers were. We quite liked Trescothick though :).

    A great cricket book I have on my TBR is Silent Revolutions by Gideon Haigh.

  6. Get well soon, OVW, and yes The a wonderful book.
    I shall leave my husband to comment on OV's choices.

  7. Guernsey is one of my favorites of last year! Glad you enjoyed it and hope you feel better soon.

  8. I moved to rural east Devon in the mid 1970s from Hampshire, where I'd been a regular spectator at the old county ground in Southampton (Northlands Road, I'm sure OV will recall it). Although just over the Somerset border in the Blackdown Hills we were only half an hour from Taunton. OV's selection brought back many happy memories of Botham, Roebuck et al. On the temperamental differences between them, I recall travelling back home from Lords after a victorious one day final when lots of Somerset lads were hitting the cider hard and running up and down the train singing loudly; one of the people in my compartment, a mild, schoolmasterly looking chap very like the studious Roebuck, said "If Botham hadn't made the grade he'd be in his element with that lot..." Not surprising they didn't get on!

    Mr Cornflower

  9. Cricket is a sticky wicket eh wot ??...:-)

  10. Cricket is a sticky wicket eh wot ??...:-)

  11. My Dad was Marcus Trescothick's science teacher. Fact. Apparently their school cricket team was rather successful at the time.

    I've got to withdraw my previous answer of "Rebecca" since I actually read that in 2007 (time flies) and change it for, I think, The Book Thief.

  12. I'm not even sure how I found myself on your blog but I got stuck in it and I've got to say I really admire it. Keep up the good work!

  13. Well I am a huge fan of cricket and Botham in particular so was v interested in all this. Both my daughters watched cricket with me from a very young age and Daughter No 1, who lives in Leeds, goes to Headingley when she can and impresses all the men with her knowledge of field placings etc. She tells them when they ask 'my mother brought me up to appreciate the finer things of life'!!

    And as I was the one who drew the Guernsey book to Simon's attention and then, presumably, to OVW I am deligthed that it is so universally loved and appreciated

  14. OVW clearly has the same tastes in good books as me and thee! The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society deserves to be a classic!

    Have also noticed not only are we both book additcs, Simons and in our 20's we also have middle names being David.. its getting spooky now!

  15. I agree Shakespeare is taught too early, Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar are over-rated, and that Dickens and Austen are worthwhile, but not in that order. (Blame this out-of-the-blue comment on Google.)


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