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The Art of Fielding [Paperback]

Chad Harbach
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

16 April 2012

A wonderful, warm novel from a major new American voice.

Henry Skrimshander, newly arrived at college, shy and out of his depth, has a talent for baseball that borders on genius. But sometimes it seems that his only friend is big Mike Schwartz – who champions the talents of others, at the expense of his own. And Owen, Henry’s clever, charismatic, gay roommate, who has a secret that could put his brilliant college career in jeopardy.

Pella, the 23-year-old daughter of the college president, has returned home after a failed marriage, determined to get her life in order. Only to find her father, a confirmed bachelor, has fallen desperately in love himself.

Then, one fateful day, Henry makes a mistake – misthrows a ball. And everything changes…

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (16 April 2012)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0007374453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007374458
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘It's left a little hole in my life the way a really good book will’ Jonathan Franzen

‘This is an outstanding novel about sport and, in Henry Skrimshander, Harbach has created a character who will keep sports psychologists in conversation for years’ Mike Atherton, The Times

‘Charming, warm-hearted, addictive’ Guardian

‘Once started The Art of Fielding is a book you want to read and read. It is deliciously old-fashioned: it simply gets on with the business of creating vivid, layered characters and telling a good, engrossing story’ Daily Telegraph

‘An intricate, poised, tingling debut … leaves you longing, lingering, and a baseball convert long after the last page’ Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife, winner of the Orange Prize

‘Chad Harbach has hit a game-ender with The Art of Fielding. It’s pure fun, easy to read, as if the other Fielding had a hand in it — as if Tom Jones were about baseball and college life.’ John Irving

Steeped in American tradition, this moving debut hits a home run…What in less skilled hands might have been a light comic novel evolves into a debut of great warmth and weight… This is a charming, moving and slyly profound novel. You might even say Chad Harbach hit this one out of the park’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Every bit as good as billed. A big, beautiful blowout of a book, sure and generous, it reads like a throwback to the mid-20th century, when American literature was in its pomp… an exceptional debut’ Guardian

‘A terrifically engaging novel… you will be rewarded by a page-turning, beguiling and wonderfully warm-hearted read’. Sunday Times

‘The baseball sequences are terrific… Harbach captures precisely the strangely becalmed grace that sets sportsmen like Henry apart…Very good indeed’ Independent

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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I made efforts to like it 23 Dec 2013
By Marin P
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 idea.
Despite being long enough, even the main characters are one-sided, not developed enough and the story drags on in some parts.
The main two seems to be asexual and removed from the outside world until the dean's daughter is introduced in the story with no credible actions.
I struggled up to the end and after the grave digging final scene, more appropriate for a Mark Twain novel for teenagers I ended up asking myself - which is the audience this book was written for?
Not for me.
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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 lhxlud
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Published 1 month ago by lhxlhxlgs
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth Your Time -- Even if You Hate Baseball
I burned out on playing and watching baseball years ago, and I tend to have zero interest in "campus" novels, so you'd think a book that revolves around a college baseball... Read more
Published 1 month ago by A. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by 4623202
5.0 out of 5 stars This is what I can only describe as a beautiful book. I would highly...
This it the first time I have ever written a review, but after reading this book I felt compelled too. This is what I can only describe as a beautiful book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Georgina Gawthorne
5.0 out of 5 stars it was recommended by John green
I picked this up for two reasons: it was recommended by John green, whose opinions I trust on almost everything, and it was set in a Small town American private university, one of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lauren James
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 4 months 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 7 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 8 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 8 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 9 months ago by Eric Wilton
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