on 17 February 2012
J.L. Carr's `A Month in the Country' is one of my favourite novels, an under-rated masterpiece. But Carr is a strange writer, most of whose books are out of print. I approached A Season in Sinji in a spirit of genuine curiosity. Could it compare with `A Month...?' Or would it be essentially whimsical? For this reader, it isn't quite as well achieved as his Booker nominated classic, but it is very fine novella - quietly understated, but beautifully written: funny and poignant, moving and occasionally disturbing.
It is difficult to offer an account of the pleasures of the book without giving spoilers because, although essentially character driven, there are several revelations towards the end of the book which profoundly affect our understanding of the characters, and their understanding of themselves.
It does, however, feel extraordinarily authentic in its depiction of WW2 from the margins, as it were. Some of the reviews of the book have focused on the game of cricket - which is misleading. Although the narrator loves cricket (as evidently did Carr himself) and establishes a cricket team in Sinji (and that game is important to the plot) cricket is neither the centre nor the focus of the book - which is immensely rewarding on many different levels.
It may not ultimately be an uplifting book, but it is a very humane one; and that is in itself enriching.
on 31 August 2014
This is a very realistic and interesting account of wartime life from the perspective of a Royal Airforce Man, based mostly in an African station called Sinji. It is easy to believe that the events in it could have actually happened. Though the plot involves the game of cricket, it is misleading to call it a cricket novel. It is mostly about friendship and rivalry between three men, Flanders, Wakerly and Turton, within the military setting. Other interesting characters appear throughout the book. In the background is a shared love interest. The African setting also adds its flavour to the story. All of this makes this novel interesting throughout.
The novel is short and an easy read but very insightful and includes a measure of suspense. There is a twist at the end.
Most readers will enjoy this book. The few hours that it will take to read it will fly by.
on 19 September 2010
J.L. Carr is pretty much overlooked these days but the smart money says that sooner or later his star will rise again because he is a really insightful writer. A Season in Sinj tells the story of conscripts during World War ll who don't care much why they are there; no heroes these, they all wish they were somewhere else, the war is annoying interference with their lives. A cricket novel which isn't really about cricket, a classic love triangle, well drawn characters, a plot of sorts; but mostly what this books is about is the randomness of life - good people, flawed people, they all get caught up in this great big war machine that messes with their lives with a complete disregard for right and wrong or good and bad.
Carr himself, in a handwritten inscription to my copy of the novel, described this as 'a book about people but with the theme, cricket (as Balzac wrote about people with the theme, money)' and who am I to argue with him.
The people in question are seen through the eyes of the narrator, a conscripted RAF photographer serving in West Africa in World War II (as was the author). The lead character's passion for, and philosophical understanding of, cricket provides the necessary framework for him to survive (in a mental sense) his posting).
The book is lightly written and full of comedic moments, but is ultimately very bleak.