Booze Bellies & Cricket Balls
By Shehan Karunatilaka
Graywolf Press, $16.00, 416 pages
Sportswriter and cricket fanatic WG Karunasen is falling apart. Years of heavy drinking have destroyed his liver, and the end is nigh. While this impending doom scenario may make some men rethink their lifestyle, Karunasen doesn’t like to give up easily. So, along with a fellow sports-writing friend, he goes on a mission to find Pradeep Mathew, a cricketer who disappeared from the Sri Lankan circuit years before after a promising start.
This novel is very much about Sri Lanka and cricket: a country and a sport with which your reviewer has very little familiarity. This, of course, is part of the appeal. Add to that quirky characters and a slightly loopy storyline and you have what seems to be an obvious winner: There’s sports, there’s heavy drinking, and somewhere in there, what’s supposed to be an indictment of the Sri Lankan system. Unfortunately, the book, while interesting, well-written, and well-imagined, reads like something much denser than it ought to be. Five pages feel like they take forever and, embarrassingly, this caused The Legend of Pradeep Mathew to be relegated to your intrepid reviewer’s “finish someday” pile. It will be finished – it would be a shame to not finish a novel with so much promise – but probably no time soon. Take that as you will.
Reviewed By Ashley McCall