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Chinaman [Paperback]

Shehan Karunatilaka
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 7.19 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

5 April 2012

Where is Pradeep S. Mathew - spin bowler extraordinaire and 'the greatest cricketer to walk the earth'?

Retired sportswriter W. G. Karunasena is dying, and he wants to know.

W.G. will spend his final months drinking arrack, making his wife unhappy, ignoring his son and tracking down the mysterious Pradeep. On his quest he will also uncover a coach with six fingers, a secret bunker below a famous stadium, a Tamil Tiger warlord, and startling truths about Sri Lanka, cricket and himself.

Winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Thus edition (5 April 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0099555689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099555681
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 156,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Carries real weight...a mixture of, say, CLR James, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fernando Pessoa and Sri Lankan arrack...essential to anyone with a taste for maverick genius" (Simon Barnes The Times)

"Chinaman is a debut bristling with energy and confidence, a quixotic novel that is both an elegy to lost ambitions and a paean to madcap dreams" (Adam Lively Sunday Times)

"Karunatilaka has a real lightness of touch. He mixes humour and violence with the same deftness with which his protagonist mixes drinks" (Tishani Doshi Observer)

"The strength of the book lies in its energy, its mixture of humour and heartwrenching emotion, its twisting narrative, its playful use of cricketing facts and characters, and its occasional blazing anger about what Sri Lanka has done to itself...if the sweetest sound you've ever heard is leather on willow, if some of the most exciting moments of your life have consisted of watching a five-day match end in a draw, if the most important question around the partition of the subcontinent is "who would have made it into Undivided India's cricket team in any era?", if your mind keeps returning to that one extraordinary spell by a bowler (say, Mohammad Zahid to Brian Lara at the Gabba, 1997)...then this book could be the best thing to happen to your life since the Ashes/World Cup/away series win against the best team in the world" (Kamila Shamsie Guardian)

"A Great Cricket Novel. For a game without much great fiction, that's a reason to applaud with drums - and forget the rules the marshals impose at Lord's" (Salil Tripathi Independent)

Book Description

One of the most acclaimed debuts of the year - a rumbustuous, brilliant novel about Sri Lanka, cricket and the search for a legendary sportsman

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding novel 15 May 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding novel - one that puts a Sri Lankan author, for the first time, on a level with the best contemporary Indian writers. It is ostensibly about cricket - indeed is about cricket - but you don't need to share the author's obsession with his country's national sport to respond to his absorbing shaggy-dog story of the legendary "Chinaman" bowler, Pradeep Matthew. This is a book with a flawless ear for language and one that evokes the whole character of Sri Lanka, its dire politics and blighted history, and yet is drenched in affection for the island. Not that you need have any previous interest in Sri Lanka, any more than cricket. To describe it as "the great Sri Lankan novel" - as the publishers do - is something of an understatement. It's one of the best novels you'll read - any time, and from any country.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little gem from the coral island 4 Jun 2011
'Chinaman' is a very well written piece of prose which manages to maintain the fine balance between being a book about sport (cricket) and a story about one mans passion. The handy descriptions provided by the author make the book an interesting read even for non-cricket fans / followers.

While the book is a piece of fiction, there are several parts where the author manages to provide a very authentic backdrop which doubles as a commentary of a Sri Lanka at odds with itself. Descriptions of the 1996 World Cup victory, the loss in 1992 against Australia, the finger wagging defiance of Arjuna Ranatunga against Ross Emerson, the Murali chucking controversy etc provide an almost documentary / non-fiction kind of a feel and provide a window into the mind of a Sri Lankan cricket fan. While the author has, in parts, also focused on other parts of the Sri Lankan reality, like the long drawn civil war, the emphasis quickly returns to cricket, which remains the essense of the story.

I was very skeptical about how Mr Karunatilake would end the book, however, he laid all my apprehensions to rest with a well thought out conclusion apt for the complex twists and turns of the story.

My only criticism of the book is that in certain parts Mr Karunatilake slips into utilizing fairly unbelievable co-incidences to move the story forward and it seems like he was at a loss of ideas at those stages in the story. However, such instances are not more than a couple and as such do little to dampen the rest of the book.

All in all, a good read, and a welcome to Mr Karunatilake to the group of excellant South Asian writers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Book! 28 Jun 2011
This is a gem!

In many ways this book approaches the level of Shane Warne to Mike Gatting - the greatest ball ever bowled. The book gives the reader a wonderful insight into the workings of Sri Lankan society and it is done with a wonderful affection and love. The references to cricket are everywhere and a love of that game certainly enhances the pleasure from the book.

It is a great story with a brilliant unexpected ending. What a shame someone called stumps and it all had to end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complete unexpected gem 10 Jan 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is funny, heartwarming, full of awesome characters, requires no knowledge of cricket, but cricketers will clearly love it too, and has an lovely little ending that ties everything together beautifully. Sincerely one of the best books i've ever read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cricketing joy! 14 Jan 2014
A brilliant read, full of unexpected twists. Set in Sri Lanka it tells the story of a near mythical cricketing exploit. If this is a game you love, then this book is for you. If you are holidaying in SL then this is the book to take. Enjoy!
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4.0 out of 5 stars It is cricket after all 5 Jun 2013
By Hande Z
This novel, subsequently reprinted under the more appropriate title, "The Legend of Pradeep Mathew" is about an old sports writer, Wijedasa Gamini Karunasena (or "Wije" as his friends call him) and his search for a forgotten Sri Lankan cricket hero, Pradeep Sivanathan Mathew. The "Chinaman" is the description of a cricket bowling manoeuvre) When Wije was diagnosed with liver failure and given a poor diagnosis he decided to make a documentary film about Pradeep Mathew. Throughout the book, Wije would lament his giving up alcohol on account of his health ("After fifty years of distinguished liver abuse, I, W.G. Karunasena , gave up booze."). He continues to sing praises of drink and drinking - "Has alcohol brought misery to humanity or kept it at bay?"

The story is replete with cricket players, cricket matches, and cricket terminology but far from being intimidating to a non-cricket player, the author unfolds them all with clarity and panache. "The Duckworth-Lewis method of resolving rain-affected games has divided the cricketing fraternity into those who do not understand it and those who pretend they do." No wonder the philosopher C E M Joad described cricket as a game for two (batsman and bowler) played by 22 players.

Some of the jokes might not be original but they fit perfectly into the story in Karunatilaka's hands: "It begins with the alcohol counselor two days after I am discharged. Before we go, Sheila [Wije's wife] gives me an article from "The Lanka Woman" on "How to overcome a Drinking Problem". `I didn't know that Lankan women had drinking problems,' I snort. `They do. They're called husbands.' Unlike me Sheila doesn't laugh at her own jokes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars It's not just the cricket!
Really tried with this one as I thought the story outline sounded promising. A dissipated, cynical sports journalist with a terminal illness, going to any length to trace a once... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Eleanor
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to keeo
This is a first novel , and is written in an original style , but not difficult to read . If you have visited Sri Lanka ( especially the Colombo area ) or enjoy cricket (... Read more
Published 16 months ago by andrew molle
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant
A highlight among modern novels, this book is manages to be incredibly funny, moving and incisive while painting an acccurate picture of Sri Lankan culture and society. Read more
Published 17 months ago by R de Silva
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Not just a fine cricket book - recommended for anyone as a beautiful novel. All the hype you've read is absolutely true.
Published 17 months ago by Mr. Tgt Chadd
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling
Wonderful yarn, exotic cast of characters, and gathers engrossing pace towards the end. Gives the reader an uncontrollable urge to Google PS Mathew on completion. Recommended.
Published 18 months ago by Jon
3.0 out of 5 stars Rained-off in the last session
This novel is the equivalent of a seven day test match that builds slowly and unevenly to a climax and then gets rained-off in the last session just when you're hoping for the... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Roger Risborough
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous
Possibly the greatest real book about not real cricket ever, and a good insight to the shenanigans of Sri Lankan life and the passion for all aspects of it. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Invicta Exile
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
I must agree with other reviewers. This is a wonderful book that I was unaware of until somone put me wise.

It helps if you like cricket but not essential. Read more
Published on 2 July 2012 by Bob from Beds
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
I really enjoyed this book. Having an interest in cricket and in Sri Lanka is helpful but not essential if you want to enjoy this quirky and sometimes moving tale, recounted by an... Read more
Published on 4 Mar 2012 by PD
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing - failed to grip me
I love cricket and I love reading. Unfortunately Chinaman never hooked me and so after completing half of it, I gave up. Read more
Published on 12 Aug 2011 by Jonathan Hemus
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