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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
Jack Hobbs
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on 13 September 2016
A good account of a Christian cricket family faced with the ups and downs of cricket.
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on 19 May 2017
well written and illustrated
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on 26 December 2015
Excellent book - very good service
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on 15 January 2013
As he did with his biography of Boycott, McKinstry gets into the nitty gritty of what made the man, while describing Hobb's feats with great detail.
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on 17 November 2012
This is a complete and exceptionally well researched biography, adding considerably to my knowledge of Hobbs - arguably one of the finest batsmen in cricket history. There was a great deal of detailed information about Hobbs' personal life, previously unknown to me. Interestingly, we still have no clear idea quite what made Hobbs the complete run making machine, particularly in the days when uncovered wickets were the norm, and batting could be so unpredictable. How would he have performed in modern cricket we can only guess at.
Congratulations Mr McKern for a masterly work.
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on 8 November 2013
A reminder that cricket is a sport not for the hooligan. It sits well with my other cricket books both serious and light-hearted. You can almost hear the leather on willow. Buy it! Enjoy it!
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on 28 July 2012
Bought for my husband as a present - he is not a fast reader but this one only took him 2 weeks to read!!!!!!!!!!!! He informs me that it was excellent!
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on 21 February 2015
Back in the early 1920s, there were only three Test cricket playing nations; England, Australia and South Africa. In the summer of 2012, both nations have been on tour; Australia recently beaten comprehensively at one day cricket and South Africa playing all forms of cricket to determine the best Test nation in the world. Given that history is repeating itself, it seems appropriate that a new biography of Jack Hobbs, England's greatest run scorer and a man who repeatedly blunted the bowling attacks of both nations, should become available now.

Blessed with natural talent, there was little hint from Jack Hobbs' early years that he would become a world renowned cricketer. He was born the eldest of twelve children into a poor family in Cambridge and, whilst his father was obsessed with the game of cricket, which was at that time increasing in popularity, he wasn't much of a player. But he managed to pass his enthusiasm to his son and, despite an early rebuff to his attempts to play for Essex, Jack Hobbs was soon invited to qualify to play for Surrey, which he was to do until his retirement, some three decades, 60,000 runs and a record number of centuries later.

Leo McKinstry takes us through Hobbs' career in great detail, unveiling not just Hobbs the cricketer, but Hobbs the man. In a day when some are famous for nothing more than being born into a famous family or having a brief stint on some reality TV show, it is refreshing to read a story of someone who was slightly embarrassed of their fame, despite having every reason to be famous. Instead of someone who embraces fame, McKinstry paints one of a devoted family man and church goer, who just happened to be very good at a sport he loved playing.

Helped by Hobbs' essentially decent nature, the tone of the book could not have been more perfectly matched to the times described. The language and style reflect the age Hobbs lived in and, indeed, the kind of man he was. There is no waste here, no passages given over to unnecessarily flowery language, no use of a hundred words when one will do. Whilst clearly a decent man and an excellent cricketer, Hobbs was not particularly well educated and the language used here is possibly the type he would have used himself. This is a simply written biography of a simply brilliant cricketer.

Perhaps what surprised me the most about the book is that it proved to be lighter reading than I expected. Thanks to the recent advent of Twenty20 cricket, the game has been given extra pace and razzmatazz in recent years, but this was absent in Hobbs' time. Given the slower pace of cricket, where deciding Tests could be timeless and last over a week, and indeed of life in general, it's a surprise to find the book flowing as well as it did. The book builds like many of the Jack Hobbs innings described within; carefully put together and advancing towards something wonderful. Even in the rare occasion Hobbs wasn't playing with his usual fluency, the descriptions of those innings never lost their flow.

The emotions felt by all parties concerned within the book are also wonderfully expressed. Hobbs' nervousness as he neared W. G. Grace's century record is palpable, as is the relief when he broke it. You can feel the emotion of the crowd when an Ashes Test is won or lost. Most remarkable, at least to me, was the beautifully understated description of Hobbs' final days, which came close to bringing a tear to the eye of one rarely affected in that way.

Many a modern cricket fan may be interested to note the feeling amongst the amateur cricketers of the 1920s that too much money and attention was paid to the professionals; shades of the treatment afforded the likes of Flintoff and Pietersen these days. Devotees of cricket will be entranced by some gorgeous descriptions of how the game should be played and lovers of biographies will enjoy a fine example of the art, even if it is lacking much of the lurid behaviour of many, but such was the nature of Jack Hobbs. Whether a cricket fan or an avid reader of biographies, this is one of the best books in either category I've read in some time and it's a must read for any cricket fan.

This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
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on 22 June 2014
Over a decade ago, McKinstry wrote an oustanding biography of "Sir" Geoffrey Boycott, one of the best cricket bios in the last 20 years. Having picked up a remaindered paperback recently, I was keen to see what he made of Jack Hobbs. The book is OK, but has three difficulties. The first is that there is (obviously) nobody alive who knew or played with Hobbs. This contrasts directly with the Boycott book. The author thus has to rely on archival material rather than interviews. Secondly, there is another biography, by Ronald Mason, published around 1960. It can be found 2nd hand in the Pavilion edition. Mason was a huge admirer of Hobbs, and brushes over many issues (or refers to them subtly, so that you have to know what is being discussed), but he is brief and to the point, unlike McKinstry in places. Thirdly, Hobbs does not seem to have been that interesting a person, though one wonders how much has been swept under various carpets over the years. Where McKinstry does go digging, as in interviews with Hobbs' great (?) nephew, little is revealed that is worthy of inclusion (and what was revealed should perhaps not have been included: all families have tensions and disputes).

None of this should put you off buying this, especially if you don't have Mason's book. McKinstry tells the story clearly, though perhaps labouring over the details of some seasons. There are some good efforts to frame Hobbs in the general social and cricketing environment of those times, and I think the book would have been improved if that aspect had been developed more. All the usual amateur villains appear: Lord Hawke, Warner, Carr etc. History has not been kind to Warner! Importantly McKinstry confronts the issue of Hobbs in WW1 (ignored by Mason). But even here, it is difficult to see what actually went on and, as the author notes, conscription was not introduced till well into the war. One clear point is that he annoyed Lord Hawke mightily: something to be proud of.
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on 22 February 2013
The author has captured the very essence of a cricketer who, it could be argued, was the outstanding sportsman of the twentieth century.
As with Hobbs' batting, flaws are all but imperceptible and the book excels in capturing the class distinctions and social conditions which formed the background to the Master's career.
Meticulously researched and surprisingly moving, it's a pleasure to read and a fitting tribute.
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