Top positive review
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Lives up to its reputation
on 30 November 2005
Beyond a Boundary reached number 3 in the Observer Sport Monthly’s poll of the best fifty sports books of all time. It is burdened with enormous praise; amongst the quotes included on the cover are: ‘To say “the best cricket book ever written” is pifflingly inadequate praise’ and ‘Great claims have been made for [Beyond a Boundary] since its first appearance in 1963: that it is the greatest sports book ever written; that it brings the outsider a privileged insight into West Indian culture; that it is a severe examination of the colonial condition. All are true.’
The praise is justified. The only way that this is not the best cricket book ever written is if you do not consider it as a cricket book. It is beautifully crafted, transcending the genre: an engaging combination of cricket book, personal memoir and political and cultural commentary. There are other very good books about cricket but this is something more than that. It is a cricket book, a history book, a sociology book and more.
CLR James is a fascinating man: widely travelled, spending long periods in England and the USA as well as Trinidad, an important writer and journalist, a politically active Marxist, instrumental in getting Frank Worrell appointed captain of the West Indies team. The book covers a wide range of subjects including his childhood in Trinidad; great cricketers he has known and watched; Caribbean politics amongst others. For cricket lovers one of the beautiful things about the book is that James loves cricket, he appreciates it as an art form. He possesses the clarity of thought and the prose to convey this love and appreciation to the reader.
In places the book shows its age (it was written in 1963); it is very much of its time: a product of the anti-colonial struggle, and the emergence of West Indies cricket as a serious challenge to the domination of England and Australia. In some places events have overtaken some of his observations and some of the language jars. It is still a fantastic book – amazingly insightful and interesting.
This is a book that no genuine cricket lover should be without.