CB Fry: An English Hero

Published: 1999
Pages: 512
Author: Wilton, Iain
Publisher: Metro Books
Rating: 4 stars

CB Fry: An English Hero

I doubt that anyone who visits cricketweb on a regular basis needs to be told too much about Charles Burgess Fry. Fry was a polymath, basically a genius who was good at everything he tried. And not just in sport, where he played football for England and appeared in the FA Cup final, and in athletics where he equalled the world long jump record – he was also successful in the literary and political worlds, but took most pride in his work running a navy training ship for some forty years.

As far as cricket is concerned, he was the first man to score six consecutive first-class centuries, since equalled by Bradman and Mike Procter but never beaten, and ended his career with an average over 50. He was not so successful at Test level however, where his average was only a shade over 32.

This is a long book and looks an intimidating read, but is actually extremely readable. The author, while he clearly was impressed enough by Fry’s life to research it, does not sugar-coat anything and tells everything as it is, good and bad, sometimes showing Fry’s own autobiography, Life Worth Living, to be somewhat exaggerated in Fry’s favour. The book covers every era and aspect of Fry’s life, which is why it is so long.

There are other aspects of Fry’s life which readers may not be familar with, from his unhappy marriage to a cruel and domineering wife, his stint as an artist’s model (with the nude photo to prove it!), his alignment with Hitler prior to the war, his unsuccesful attempts at election to parliament, through to his mental illness in later years (as a result of which his friendship with Ranji became increasingly strained).

Incredibly, it seems that he felt he had never fulfilled his potential. At other times in his life, he was editing and publishing his own magazine, serving on the League of Nations (where he is said to have been offered the kingdom of Albania), and trying to break into Hollywood.

But it is Fry’s flaws which are ultimately what makes this book such an interesting read, as fantastic as his sporting and other achievements undoubtedly were. All in all, a fascinating book on a fascinating man.

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