The Legend of Pradeep Mathew

. 978-1-55597-611-8. Fiction
W.G. Karunasena, curmudgeonly narrator and protagonist, is a self-proclaimed alcoholic hack journalist, with no illusions about himself or his native land (Sri Lanka). A lifelong fan of books and booze, he has a distinctive voice and a biting wit and casts his jaundiced eye on everyone around him. The book is set largely in the 1990s, and though concerned almost entirely with the sport of cricket, it can't escape the ethnic conflicts and acts of terror and violence that plagued Sri Lankan society in that decade of civil war. Karunasena spends the entire novel trying to track down the title character, legendary yet forgotten Sri Lankan cricketer Pradeep Mathew, a Godot-like absent presence throughout the novel. Perhaps he is a metaphor for Sri Lanka itself, disregarded, underappreciated, and never getting its due.
VERDICT If you had told me I would read and enjoy a 400-page novel about Sri Lankan cricket, I wouldn't have believed you. Though a passing acquaintance with the sport would add to readers' appreciation of the novel, the oddball characters, the humor, and debut novelist Karunatilaka's inventive narrative style will keep them engaged.
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