The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus by Duncan Hamilton – book review

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We don’t often review cricket books these days because reading about cricket is not generally what we want to do once we’ve finished reading about cricket for the day. King Cricket reader Ged Ladd read one though and he sent us a review.

Ged writes…

I don’t normally read cricket books at cricket matches. Normally I read arcane stuff at cricket matches, such as Iphigenia Among The Taurians by Euripides.  

I prefer arcane places, such as the Ekoin Monastery in Koyasan, Japan, for cricket books, such as Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket by Stephen Fay.

But these are unprecedented times.

In the glorious weather of spring 2020, when we were first locked down, it was clear that there’d be no live cricket to see for a while. Instead, I hunkered down in the garden with The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus by Duncan Hamilton.

I was transfixed by the book. Neville Cardus was a fascinating character. Hailing from modest circumstances in Rusholme, Manchester, he intriguingly “fell” into the roles of cricket and music correspondent for the (then Manchester) Guardian newspaper. Despite being an “outsider” (Cardus loved Lord’s whereas the MCC grandees clearly did not love him), he became arguably the most loved and most influential cricket writer, covering an era spanning the end of The Great War to the mid 1970s.

But…

…it soon became obvious that there would be no cricket for some time and almost certainly no opportunity to watch cricket live in 2020.

As the Neville Cardus story progressed inexorably towards the dark clouds that were the 1930s and impending war, I couldn’t bear to read on. I had formerly read several wonderful, melancholy Cardus pieces about that era; it was not what I needed at the dawn of the pandemic.

I resolved to finish the book as soon as I could start watching live cricket again. 

14 months later…

… I enormously enjoyed finishing the book during Days 1 and 2 of the 2021 First Test at Lord’s, as reported here on King Cricket.

Neville Cardus would probably have appreciated the sentiment. He wrote about the senses; he wrote with profound feeling. Duncan Hamilton celebrates and emulates that style in this book.

I do not recommend that you spend 14 to 15 months reading this book, but I do recommend the book highly.

11 comments

  1. On first glance Ged, I thought you weren’t wearing any shorts in that picture. On closer inspection I’m not convinced that those pink and yellow ones are any easier on the eye.

      1. I don’t see that you’re reading a book in that picture at all, Ged, looks more like a paper, but I could be wrong, bedazzled as I am by the sun light and your shorts in said picture.
        Also, you appear to be eating. Nothing wrong with that, just trying to decipher the picture.
        Very envious of the obvious suntrap and verdant garden.
        I note from your link one feature of the shorts that brings back many memories: “Two back eyelets allow water to drain and reduce the “balloon” effect when emerging from the water.” (Although I remember the ballooning effect from trapped air when entering, not emerging from, the water.)
        Finally, thanks for the book recommendation.

      2. You’ve got us bang to rights with regard to the reading matter. That photo was taken around the time I was reading the book in the glorious spring of 2020, but, when Daisy took that photo, I was indeed reading a long-since-forgotten (probably intensely dull) business paper.

        No eating involved, Chuck, I was probably just metaphorically chewing over, in my mind, the contents of that paper.

        Daisy didn’t think that anyone would notice that the reading matter depicted was at variance with the reading matter described. She doesn’t know the KC community all that well, does she?

      3. Wait, so this was all a big fat lie? I come here for views of a bare-chested Ged reading cricket books. What do I get instead? A bare-chested Ged mulling over business papers, possibly to do with the price of fish.

        To say I feel cheated would be the understatement of the fortnight.

      4. No, you wait, Deep Cower. At no point in my piece did I say that the photograph of me in the garden depicted every element described in the two-sentence paragraph that precedes said picture.

        Big fat lie? Cheated?? These are strong allegations against which I shall defend myself to the bitter, bitter end.

        Tiddlywinks at dawn. You can choose the size of winks and pot.

  2. A shame that today’s touring squad announcement contained no surprises.

    Gone are the days of a wildcard Gavin Hamilton, a left-field Paul Jarvis or an eyebrow-raising Ian Ward.

      1. Chris Silverwood says that Joe Root’s attack will prioritise “supreme accuracy” – presumably ahead of supreme pace, which has largely been denied the squad in the absence of Archer & Stone.

        Bring forth Darren Stevens, the accuracy supremo of the medium paced bowling world.

  3. Do the dice in the key ring come out for an impromptu game of dice cricket or are they purely ornamental? Also may I recommend an increase from factor 4 based on the evidence displayed in the topless garden shot.

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