Quill on Willow
Author: Eric Midwinter
Rating: 4.5 stars
By Archie Mac
30 May 2011
This would not have been an easy book to write, as you would need to know two subjects; cricket and English literature intimately. Although if the truth be told, a comprehension of the latter seems the most important principally because you would have to know where to search for mentions of cricket by famous authors. With some of the writings on cricket being no more than a few lines, the breadth of Midwinter's knowledge is impressive. The list of famous authors Midwinter names who have written about England's national game is both surprising and extraordinary, with everyone from Dickens to Jeffry Archer earning a mention.
It would be one thing for Midwinter to impress with his familiarity of both cricket and literature however this would have quickly worn thin if the author simply listed examples mentioning cricket throughout literature history. Fortunately Midwinter does a great deal more, demonstrating and explaining how authors have used cricket to draw similarities between the game and real life. This is especially achieved by the use of the class struggle with the upstairs-downstairs of England society and the amateur professional divide in English first class cricket.
Midwinter's account of great author's use of cricket as a means to accelerate plots, its use in subplots and even his insightful explanations of symbolism in many novels is not only educational but enlightening. As with all great writing once you have read his explanation of why a writer has included a certain scene or symbol, the reader immediately becomes elucidated and wonders how they missed the now obvious meaning.
Midwinter does not only cover cricketing content in books, but movies and TV as well as magazines such as the Boys Own Paper
, which Midwinter credits with the planting of the seed in many a young man's mind that cricket as well as cricket in public schools was the most pure of pursuits that could be followed.
There is also plenty of unfamiliar content for the knowledgeable cricket reader with Midwinter suggesting Dickens was actually offered a reading tour of Australia after and not before the first English tour of Australia. It is part of cricketing accepted fact that Spies and Pond the promoters of that first tour of an English cricket team to Australia had only decided upon the cricketing venture once Dickens had not replied to their original request to undertake a reading tour of Australia.
If you are a true cricket tragic and enjoy even your fiction reading to contain some cricketing content than you will acquire a long list of prospective reading material. Personally I have twelve books I am now actively searching the second hand book market for, not to mention a number of TV programs which contain cricket scenes.
Now for the one criticism of Quill on Willow
, with so much unfamiliar content, it is frustrating there is no index. This one small oversight stops this book being rated five stars.