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4.7 out of 5 stars29
4.7 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 16 June 2002
This beautiful, rich, complex and deeply satisfying book still haunts me nearly a year after reading it for the first time. James takes you through his life, the history of West Indian society and the role of cricket in both with a vigour and erudition that lifts the book from the mere 'sports' category.
Cricket, and the power it can have over an individual and a people, is central to his story. The development of cricket, people and politics in the West Indies was intertwined for most of the 20th century. And James does us all an immense favour by untangling these strands carefully, deliberately and intelligently and then for good measure shines a light on England and its' own cricketing heritage. It is a wonderful read.
Read this book if you love cricket, if you're fascinated by political history, if you love writing that is so good it leaves you breathless. Whatever your reason, just read it; and then spread the word.
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on 9 August 2001
Beyond a boundary is an extraordinary book, CLR James manages to seamlessly interweave anecdotes, cricketing technique, politics, his love for his country and his fellow men (cricketing and otherwise), legends of the game and the deveolpment of the game together with a tremendous sense of the importance of cricket in our culture and civilisation. It is not a light and easy read, or a book I would recommend universally, but the interest that you show in it is well rewarded with the depth of insight that you gain from every single page. I read it six months ago, and it remains in my mind far more vividly than many books I have read since for the renewed interest that it has given me towards a game I have always loved, but now look at with more reverence and understanding. Cricket is not life and death to everyone, but while reading this book it will appear that it could, or even should be.
It is more complex and thought provoking than any other sporting book I have ever encountered, and as such does not deserve the classification of sports book, though I couldn't begin to suggest how it SHOULD be classified!
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on 18 July 2010
This is a most unusual book, part autobiography, part politics, part cricket. It is beautifully written, essential reading for those of us who think of cricket as a spiritual experience as well as a game. CLR James must have been an exceptionally well-educated man, and this shows in his ability to set his arguments out in an intelligent way. It is not too intellectual, but occasionally it goes off at some curious tangents. Most enjoyable.
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on 26 June 2013
I ordered this book on the strength of a blog post by Kenan Malik. I'm not a huge fan of cricket and reading this book was sometimes like reading a Patrick O'Brien novel (a lot of jargon) but it did not interfere with my enjoyment of the book. Though it did make me somewhat jealous of the affection, the knowledge and the passion, the author had for the game of cricket. It's difficult to say exactly what this book is about as it is parts autobiography, biography, paean to the game of cricket, a treatise on art, a social history of England, Trinidad & Tobago, an introduction to a national awakening and flowering, a literary review, a philosophical commentary, a window into the gradations of racism, the degradations caused by racism and the sun setting on an imperial power. I've never had the pleasure of reading something so eclectic and yet so informative.
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VINE VOICEon 29 September 2008
This is the greatest cricket book ever written. It's amazing. Because it's not about cricket. It's about life, about class, about politics, about colonialism, about racism. Because James realises you can't talk about cricket without talking about these things. As he says, "what do they know of cricket that only cricket know?"

Cricket books seem to work better than many other sport books because the game has only just started to change. There's been no new equipment to revolutionise the game, no huge influxes of obscene money (until this year); Bradman would have scored runs by the hatful today, and Warne would have taken wickets by the bucketload then. Which is lovely and means that this book feels almost as relevant now as when it was written.

If you know a cricket fan (or a sports fan, for that matter) who hasn't read this book, buy it for them. They will thank you
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on 15 December 2012
This book is unique - the work of a unique author. A person who can write with equal authority, wit and - on occasion - poignancy on cricket (this book) and on the Haiti slave revolt (The Black Jacobins) deserves respect and gratitude. 'Beyond a boundary' is a cricket book for the cricket enthusiast, but it's frame of reference is so much wider than cricket. A classic.
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on 20 June 2014
This is an exquisitely evocative memoir full of poetic language and compelling encomia about cricket and life in colonial Trinidad. CLR's style is magnanimous and warm making it an easy book to read despite some significant intellectualism. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to English cricket fans and social historians. Magnificent.
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on 23 September 2000
Known as a classic title by anyone with even a passing interest in cricket, I wasn't sure 'Beyond a Boundary' could live up to the hype. Certainly, reading it does require effort; this is no instant feel-good cosy reminiscence. But it is pure joy. Ostensibly a memoir about cricket and criecketers, it mixes personal anecdote, literary allusion and political maxim with the technical detail of techniques and scores, and makes you understand and enjoy all these far more than you imagined possible. He deftly explores inter-island rivalry in the Caribbean, and the tensions between clubs on the same island who would only take players of a certain class and race. He challenges with his love of reading, which was clearly a life-long passion. And he inspires with his big vision of a world which can be improved, and a game which (as all cricket fans know) is more than a game and plays its part in the problems and the solutions. Cricket is made to seem at once gloriously important and appropriately small. If you enjoyed 'Fever Pitch', this is the original - harder work, but grander. A beautiful, amazing book.
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You have to be quite a writer to be a Marxist yet be admired by the fiercely anti-Marxist V.S. Naipaul, but James certainly has deserved his compatriate's approbation. This is a highly intelligent, indeed profound and enjoyable book on the West Indies and on cricket, for the sport in no small way has unified the places. And James gave to us the lovely sentence "What do they know of cricket, who only cricket know?", not spoilt for me even when I found he took it from Kipling - as Eliot noted great poets steal! You do not need to be a cricket fan to appreciate this nuanced subtle and stylish exploration of the sport and its important place in West Indian identity, as "beyond a boundary" is a clever pun by one who knew its double-meaning all too well. This is as good in its way as 'The Black Jacobins', and since that is one of the most striking 20th century history books it's a fine accolate for a superb account. A treat.
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