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The Network

Richard Heller

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8 /10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Bearmondsey Publishing

Published : 2010

Copyright : Richard Heller 2010

ISBN-10 : PB 0-9556740-1-8
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-9556740-1-3

Publisher's Write-Up

The long awaited sequel to Richard Heller's highly-regarded cricket novel A Tale of Ten Wickets. Teenage pace bowler Steve is the only child of a disintegrating marriage. He's just left a sink school. He has no social life, no girlfriend and no career prospects. The only thing holding him together is his dream of becoming a fast bowler. But his lonely pursuit of his dream brings him a network of new relationships and a new life. Narrated by its principal characters in vivid dialogue, by turns richly comic and highly sentimental, The Network is a rich tribute to the power of sport.

About the Author:
Richard Heller is an author and journalist. He was a finalist in BBC Television's Mastermind 2008 series, answering questions on WC Fields; Napoleon’s family; the Rodgers and Hart songbook. He was joint runner-up in 1996, answering questions on President Harry Truman; British politics between the wars; Sir Garry Sobers. From 1981 to 1983 he was chief of staff to Rt Hon Denis Healey MP, then Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He has worked in the movie business, in this country and Hollywood, and contributed additional dialogue to a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He has played cricket for many teams since the 1950s, as a medium-pace bowler who moves the ball both ways off the bat.

'Can't remember relishing any cricket fiction so much.'

Matthew Norman, Evening Standard
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Felix (310311) Rating (8/10)

Review by Felix
Rating 8/10
Richard Heller is a very mediocre cricketer. He describes himself as a slow-medium swing bowler who moves the ball both ways off the bat. However, he is a very good cricket novelist. He wrote A Tale Of Ten Wickets, a well-reviewed novel about a social cricket team called the Frenetics, which reveals the secret, surprising history of each of their players.

It took him fifteen years to write its sequel, and you can understand why. The Network is a Dickensian novel, crammed with incident and characters (some of them Real People) and multiple narratives. The Frenetics all reappear, older though not necessarily wiser, but there are five new characters who act as the narrators. Every single page is told to the reader by one or other of them (helpfully, each has his or her own typeface) - a technique which allows Richard Heller to convey their feelings directly and vividly, and to change fluently between their different voices.

The main character and principal narrator, Steve, is a teenager who is up against it. He is the only child of feuding parents. Ruefully, he notes "my family’s a battleground and I’m just a small hill which each side occupies to fire on the other." He is lonely and self-mocking and without a future. He spends all his spare time reading the books given to him by a much-loved uncle (which provide him with an unusually rich vocabulary) and playing cricket. He does not even have a team to play for, but walks a long way to the nets in a public park, to bowl at anyone who asks.

An unpromising start, but Steve keeps faith with his dream of becoming a fast bowler and bit by bit it becomes true. Through cricket, he gets a network of new relationships which change his life.

The Network is a huge tribute to the power of sport. At times it seems too good to be true. It is almost a modern fairy story: the young warrior battles with honour through adversity and comes into his kingdom. Some parts are terribly sentimental, but Richard Heller stops it falling off the edge, by sparky dialogue and by powerful insight on some big issues, including dysfunctional families, homophobia, bullying, desertion, self-inflicted guilt. The cricket passages, in the nets or on the field, are brilliant, especially the match narrated by Steve, which gets right inside his head. Anyone who has ever played any sport with passion will identify with his ever-more desperate prayers for success.

The Network is a thick novel to cover a few months in an ordinary teenager’s life. But an awful lot happens - not just to him but to everyone he meets - and it bowls along as fast as its young hero.
Felix (31st March 2011)

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