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A long short story
on 23 June 2011
This is a simple story about a fighter, Cal, and his trainer, Riley, preparing for a big fight, the fight of Cal's career. His opponent is unbeaten, but Cal thinks he has a good chance. The novel has received a lot of praise, including the quote by Tom McCarthy comparing the author to Hemingway. That's always a problem for me, building expectations too high. This is good, but not that good.
The story is all about the gradual build up, the tension, the relationship between the fighter and his trainer. It's told in sparse prose that works very well for the most part, except that occasionally the repetitive, short-sentence style is overdone. There's little variety in the writing.
I have no interest in fighting or the sporting world described in the novel, but I enjoyed reading about it. This is the strength of the novel, the way the author seems to understand how the men would feel. You don't have to like the sport to enjoy this book.
The weakness, for me, was that in parts the repetition becomes a little tedious. There's very little going on here, for a full-length novel. At times it feels a bit drawn out, like the author is running out of things to tell us. It feels more like a long short story than a short novel. Also the ending - after the build-up and the suspense, I found the ending a bit sudden, something of a let down.
This is a good, easy read, but don't expect too much. If you ignore the hype, you might not be disappointed.