Most people will come to this book through the Redford film and will be surprised and intrigued by the view that the movie takes of the text. In the film the key event of the protagonist's life, Roy Hobbs, is seen as a random event of chance which changes an otherwise good man's chance of fame and greatness and through his love of baseball he is redeemed; the book's view is that Roy, while a genius, has flaws that mean he will never be redeemed and will always struggle with his inner demons. If we look at our real life sporting heroes we will see that this is the true picture of sporting genius and what makes many sportsmen great (confidence, self-belief and skill) will, often be the very thing that causes their destruction, in one telling line that defines Roy's character and fate, the team mamanger expresses concern that Roy can "never leave a bad ball alone".
This is the reason for Roy's fall, not a random event of fate but a man struggling with his talent and with the dark side of his talent.
The book has an epic feel to it, Roy is a hero in the mould of Odysseus or Jason, he is tempted, fails and is constantly antagonising the gods that gave him his talent; as a result those gods beset him with trials and tests, many of which he fails. It is therefore not a story more of an extended fable. The mythic quality that the film draws upon is much darker and forboding in the book and, most tellingly there is no happy ending.
This is an evocative book, the smell and feel of baseball is captured with startling clarity and the nature of skill and luck in any game is brought vividly to life. It is not a comfortable book to read and there are some stark contrasts with key moments in the film which are also key moments in the book but from an entirely different perspective.