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The Art of Fielding [Hardcover]

Chad Harbach
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 11.55 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012

In The Art of Fielding, we see young men who know that their four years on the baseball diamond at Westish College are all that remain of their sporting careers. Only their preternaturally gifted fielder, Henry Skrimshander, seems to have the chance to keep his dream – and theirs, vicariously – alive, until a routine throw goes disastrously off course, and the fates of five people are upended.

After his throw threatens to ruin his roommate Owen’s future, Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his; while Mike Schwartz, the team captain and Henry’s best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. Keeping a keen eye on them all, college president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, falls unexpectedly and dangerously in love, much to the surprise of his daughter, Pella, who has returned to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warm-hearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment – to oneself and to others.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007374445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007374441
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 230,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘Reading The Art of Fielding is like watching a hugely gifted young shortstop: you keep waiting for the errors, but there are no errors. First novels this complete and consuming come along very, very seldom.’ Jonathan Franzen

‘Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding is one of those rare novels – like Michael Chabon’s Mysteries of Pittsburgh or John Irving’s The World According to Garp – that seems to appear out of nowhere, and then dazzles and bewitches and inspires, until you nearly lose your breath from the enjoyment and satisfaction, as well as the unexpected news-blast that the novel is very much alive and well.’
James Patterson

‘I gave myself over completely and scarcely paused for meals. Like all successful works of literature The Art of Fielding is an autonomous universe, much like the one we inhabit although somehow more vivid.’
Jay McInerney

‘Compulsively readable’ Literary Review

About the Author

Chad Harbach grew up in Wisconsin, and graduated from Harvard in 1997. He was a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where he received an MFA in Fiction in 2004. He is currently the Executive Editor of n+1, which he co-founded, and lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
By Jackie
I hate watching sport, know nothing about baseball and haven't enjoyed a sports themed book before (not that I've read many - I tend to avoid them), but increasing enthusiasm for The Art of Fielding persuaded me to give it a try. I'm pleased that I did as this is a modern classic that will be talked about for years to come.

The first few chapters did their best to put me off - I could see the writing quality, but the endless baseball references did nothing for me.

"Henry played shortstop, only and ever shortstop - the most demanding spot on the diamond. More ground balls were hit to the shortstop than anyone else, and then he had to make the longest throw to first. He also had to turn double-plays, cover second on steals, keep runners on second from taking long leads, make relay throws from the outfield. Every Little League coach Henry had ever had took one look at him and pointed toward right field or second base. Or else coach didn't point anywhere, just shrugged at the fate that had assigned him this pitiable shrimp, this born benchwarmer."

Without the hype I would probably have abandoned this book after the first few pages, but I persevered and at page 50 I was rewarded with chapter 6 which didn't mention baseball at all. Instead it introduced Moby Dick, an English professor and a glimpse of the magical writing Chad Harbach is capable of when he talks about something other than sport.

As the book progressed I became increasingly attached to the characters in the book and completed its 500 pages in a surprisingly quick time, but on reaching the end I found I was quietly impressed rather than bowled over with excitement. I didn't find anything particularly new or interesting in The Art of Fielding.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"The Art of Fielding" is basically a US-style campus novel featuring baseball. There are similarities in style between this and many of John Irving's works, with baseball substituting for Irving's wrestling focus. This, to the UK-reader, raises the first potential barrier as we are, as a rule, largely ignorant of the US fixation with the intricacies of baseball. Certainly you don't need an in depth knowledge to appreciate this story - it is really a story of friendship, ambition and the sporting dreams of youth - but despite a loose understanding of the sport I felt that I would have benefitted from more knowledge particularly towards the end when there is a climatic baseball match. You kind of get the point, but I certainly felt that I was missing out on a little of the tension, in much the same way I'd expect a US reader to be perplexed if the story had been based on say, cricket. It's a minor flaw though and it would be a shame if potential readers dismissed it for this reason.

For me, a more serious issue was that after a strong start - as a young Henry Skrimshander, a baseball fielding prodigy in the Roy of the Rovers manner (to horribly mix sports) is spotted by college über-jock Mike Schwartz and encouraged to enroll at the preppy but academically minor Westish College - the middle of the book loses it's way a little and kind of drifts along for a while, before things rush to a slightly unsatisfying and unbelievable ending.

Once arrived at Westish, Henry is roomed with gay, fellow teammate (although he appears to do little to warrant his place on the team preferring to read on the bench), Owen.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By G. E. Harrison TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A couple of years ago while on a road trip in the States I stayed in Cooperstown, an idyllic American small town at the tip of Lake Otsego in New York State that is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I did think about going in there in order to gain an insight into America through its national game but then I remembered that I don't have the slightest interest in cricket, let alone baseball.

Although the action of `The art of fielding' does centre around a mid-western college baseball team, ultimately the book isn't really about baseball but about people and relationships. I would have possibly got more out of the novel if I had understood the finer points of the game but I liked the book fine as it was and you can kind of get the drift of what is happening. In fact I really liked this book, it's one of the best novels I've read in years and it completely sucks you into the cloistered world of Westish College. We are introduced to a cast of marvelous, flawed characters including Henry Skrimshander, Mike Schwartz and Guert Affenlight all of whom I found totally believable. I was a little disappointed by the cliched ending - both on the diamond (which resembled many of the numerous films depicting baseball) and in the cemetery - but in many ways this fitted in with the sentimental tone of the rest of the book.

Overall this is an amazing accomplishment for a first novel - self-assured, very well written and at turns both poignant and very amusing. I shall look forward to reading more of Chad Harbach's work
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Layers of story lines and far from the obvious happy ending one could expect. Hugely enjoyed the story and would recommend
Published 7 days ago by Madmorg13
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just about baseball. Try it.
If, like me, you are a UK resident who may feel/think- "Well it's just going to be about the game", please don't. Give this great book a go. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ade Davies
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute load of tosh. Avoid like the plague....
Even though I'm English, I know the basic rules of baseball (having read them). Knowing the basics will certainly help you understand more fully the baseball terminology used in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by casey wood
5.0 out of 5 stars I think about this book a lot. I really, really loved it.
An admission and an approval: I read this book at least a year ago, before I had read many press reviews; before I read the Vanity Fair article recounting the long road Chad... Read more
Published 4 months ago by ghandibob
4.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite Read of 2013
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The fact that baseball features strongly, but not overly, was a bonus for me. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Eric Wilton
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminds me of John Irving
This writer reminds me of John Irving, who's another favourite of mine. This is a fantastic book about learning who you are and coming to accept that person, and how it can happen... Read more
Published 6 months ago by A. Reader
2.0 out of 5 stars I made efforts to like it
This novel feels manufactured, written by a committee. It does not flow as a natural story would, you can clearly see that parts of the story added just to complement the initial... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Marin P
5.0 out of 5 stars #bigfanofaparicio
A brilliant book - I couldn't stop turning the pages as it was so engrossing and engaging. As most of the reviews say this book is not about baseball but much more. Read more
Published 6 months ago by jpem65
5.0 out of 5 stars What a pleasant surprise
It's very rare for me to thoroughly enjoy a book but the Art of Fielding sits squarely in this camp. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rodders546
4.0 out of 5 stars Good sport theme, but there's more than that
Sport players will empathize, good overall plot and characters. Although it can be a little pretentious, and there aren't many good small characters, which I/some like.
Published 7 months ago by Anonymous
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