Top critical review
More than a Match
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.