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Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
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on 14 October 2016
This review is based on the 2007 edition of this book. I’ll get to why this is significant later.
Tony Hawks is an English – very English – comic of the light-hearted rather than hard-hitting type, best known for taking on bizarre bets. His first, and perhaps most famous, was that he could hitchhike around the coast of Ireland within a month – with a fridge. (This edition contains at the back the opening pages of Round Ireland with a Fridge to explain the genesis of this bet). His second was that he could beat the Moldovan team at tennis. Not the Moldovan tennis team – if such a thing exists –the Moldovan football/soccer team.
I had read Round Ireland and the later One Hit Wonderland – that he could have a Top Twenty hit anywhere in the world with a given timeframe – and got Playing the Moldovans as I was going to Moldova to watch the Moldovan football team play the Republic of Ireland – at football I hasten to add, not tennis.
There are two main strands running through this book. While the tennis parts of the book are of the mildly entertaining, easy reading style of Round Ireland there is a more serious side dealing with the poverty of a country emerging from communism – not just financial poverty but the poverty of understandably low expectations. (While Moldova is still quite poor by European standards things have moved on somewhat in the near two decades since the trip was made).
The reason why I stressed that this was the 2007 edition of the book is that given the combination of the book’s success and of the poverty he encountered in Moldova he decided to donate half of the royalties from the book to a trust fund to open a medical centre for disabled children. (While in Moldova he had stayed with a family where both parents were doctors). I point this out as some reviewers of earlier editions of the book had accused Hawks of appearing insensitive to the plight of the Moldovan people.
I found this book to be neither one thing nor the other, neither particularly funny nor particularly serious, neither particularly good nor particularly bad - hence the rating.
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on 16 June 2017
Another bet, another book! After a drunken bet with Arthur Smith that he (Tony Hawks) couldn't play the entire Moldovan national football team at tennis, Tony Hawks sets off to play the entire Moldovan football team at tennis - the title of the book says it all really. Funny, warm, affectionate storytelling, but not shying away from describing the hard life the Moldovans were experiencing at the time of his visit. Would thoroughly recommend.
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on 30 January 2012
I read 'Round Ireland with a Fridge' years ago, when my Mum leant it to me. Her book club were all reading it, and although while I'm not sure what a bunch of old crones would have made of it, I absolutely loved it. Then a few weeks ago, whilst listening to Mr Hawks say something witty on some radio programme or other, I resolved to purchase his other literary works.

This is a great book. It is laugh out loud funny, and has a touching back story about relationships, friendships, the human condition and the rebirth of a nation. If you like laughing, like reading, and like the two things combined, then this book would make a very sensible purchase. If you like neither of these things I would recommend that you stop reading this wonderful review and get yourself to the self-help section.
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on 28 March 2018
As ever, Tony Hawks' writing is delightfully humorous, and in this book, interesting to learn about Moravia, a country less well known than other European countries. Great read. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 27 September 2013
I've read all the other books written by this author and this rates slightly below 'Round Ireland With A Fridge' for humour. Never having seen or heard of Tony Hawks on radio tv or the comedy circuit before buying his first offering in this genre, I was unsure whether his attempts at humourous writing would chime with mine. It disappointed in some ways. RIWAF was a cut above, mainly because of the many characters who added colour to the page. Alas, the book failed to elicit anything but sadness about the situation (at the time) of the family with whom he stayed and the overall tenor of the politics of that country.
Worth buying, if only to be reminded of how lucky we are to be living on the oft derided small Islands of Great Britain.
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on 11 November 2015
As a Romanian I must say this is a very honest and accurate representation of Romania and Moldova in the 90s. Things have come a long way since then, but it still felt very accurate and brought back old memories. Also, Tony is just a funny guy and the book is pretty entertaining. Also, going to Transnistria in the 90s was either totally crazy or totally courageous, or both.
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on 15 December 2016
Rather limited in its subject matter, but as entertainingly written as his other books
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on 23 November 2017
Have previously read this hilarious book and only a little change in Moldova since then. It still feels quite familiar and typical of what to expect when visiting Moldova.
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on 29 April 2013
I love Tony Hawks' sense of humour so really enjoyed this book. In my view it's not quite as entertaining as "Around Ireland with a Fridge" but still a super read with a good mix of comedy, sensitivity and ridiculousness.
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on 17 November 2015
Humerous account of a westerner in eastern Europe. Not really so much about tennis as the differences and similarities across cultures. Glad I read it.
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