21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A different opinion
, 21 July 2011
This review is from: Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France (Kindle Edition)
Richard Moore's Slaying the Badger seems to have gained universal praise and so it's with some trepidation that I offer a dissenting opinion. Don't get me wrong: the story of the 1986 Tour is a fascinating one. I'm just not sure that this book tells it in a fascinating way.
I should probably make clear at the outset that I work as a writer and editor. That means that I have a horrible tendency to mentally edit books as I read them. Often, there are things which irritate me which I'm sure would bother no-one else. But in other instances there are problems with the language so fundamental that I'm sure they bother people regardless of whether they are paid to spot misplaced apostrophes. This is one of those instances.
A big part of the problem for me is the tendency to cram far too many ideas into one sentence. Sometimes this simply leads to clumsy phrasing: "Laurent Fignon, it becomes clear whenever the road begins to rise, is, as his performance in the time trial in Nantes had suggested, finished."
In others, it leads to sentences which resemble paragraphs and which took me several read-throughs to understand: "And here LeMond, as he so often does, segues quickly into an anecdote that at first seems to veer off at a tangent to the discussion we've just been having, only to home back in on the point, and to reveal something fundamental, in this case shedding light on Köchli's intransigence, which, with someone as dizzily hyperactive as LeMond, must surely have been the most significant barrier to a flourishing professional relationship forming between the two." Admittedly, that is the worst example I found of a sentence which really should have been broken up. But it wasn't the only one. Often dashes are used to try to separate ideas, but that just leads to awkward passages such as these: "His eldest son, Geoffrey - a baby during the 1986 Tour - had taken up the sport, and LeMond - just like his father had done in 1975 in Montana - began cycling regularly with him. In 2007 father and son travelled to France to ride L'Étape du Tour - a stage of the Tour de France - together." The often-awkward phrasing meant that too often I found reading this book very hard work indeed.
In my opinion, the author has also made strange choices in how he tells the story. My Kindle version reveals that the description of the 1986 Tour doesn't start until more than 60 percent of the way into the book. While the background is undoubtedly of relevance, it did leave me feeling that the description of the race itself was greatly rushed. I can't help but wonder how much better the book would have been if each chapter were focused on each stage of the race, with flashbacks to relevant background. I also fear the tendency to directly quote and cite sources (typically books, television interviews, and interviews conducted by the author himself) detracts from the drama of the story. Too often I felt like I was reading an academic tome. Much better, surely, would have been to weave this information directly into the text. Very little seems to have been paraphrased, and I often found this jarring.
As I say, there's no doubt that I'm a linguistic nitpicker and that my enjoyment of Slaying the Badger was considerably marred as a result. But I do fear that there are some issues so dramatic that they will affect any reader's enjoyment. The 1986 Tour makes for a brilliant book. But it saddens me to say I don't think that book has been written yet.
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