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Feels like a marathon in reverse
on 28 September 2012
This book is like a marathon in reverse. It starts off weak and is quite painful to get through at times, but improves leading to a strong denouement (which is quite thrilling). In essence therefore it gets 2/3 stars for the first half and 4/5 for the latter. My overall rating reflects the fact that I am runner - my feeling being that if you aren't a runner you probably will come away feeling less than enthused about it.
The story follows a university student (Quenton Cassidy) and his running team mates through a period of heavy training during which they are embroiled in a sporting controversy which leads to Cassidy being sidelined on the track just when the world mile record holder is going to be competing at a local meet. Can he get himself readmitted onto the track and if not will he miss this date with destiny? Sorry for being a little vague here- but I think giving away too much of the plot will ruin the story.
The story is sold in certain quarters at "part training manual...religious tract...love story," so let me say at this juncture that if you want a training manual read 'The Lore of Running', if you want a religious tract try an actual Holy Text; as for love story...I'm not sure that a character actually explicitly expresses love or ardour at any point in the book! It's all about running...and if you like running you will probably enjoy it.
But it does have quite a few weaknesses. The central characters are very weakly pencilled in and I found it hard to sympathise with Cassidy for much of the book- we don't learn about his background and near death experience until we are almost 3/4 of the way through the book. As a a result its hard to really care about what happens to him. Similarly his budding romance is so vaguely dealt with that when he breaks up with his girlfriend you almost don't know it has happened. A lot of the language in other parts is also so abstract and abstruse that you struggle to figure out what characters are really getting at.
Certainly the book has its quirky and laugh out loud funny bits, and I think that there is a certain Catch-22 feeling about some of the absurd and pompous characters that inhabit the pages.
When I got to the end, I realised that there was a sequel and read the excerpts (2 chapters) supplied and found that it seemed to be better written than the original and so will probably go ahead and read it.
Is this, as the cover says, "the best novel ever written about running"?- well it's hard to say given its the only novel about running that I have read- but its certainly one I wont forget and may even read again after an interval.