Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Natural by Bernard Malamud

Bernard Malamud was (according to Wikipedia) one of the great American Jewish authors of the 20th century. The Natural was his first novel which was written in 1952 and follows the story of Roy Hobbs, a baseball player who's career was cut short in his youth. When Roy reaches middle age, he gets the chance to use his natural talent to achieve status in the world of baseball once again.

I really really didn't like this book, at all.

My husband has an unusual interest in baseball. Obviously in America/Cuba/Japan etc. this is not an unusual interest, but in the UK where the sport is not televised on terrestrial television (I don't think it's even on the satellite channels) it is an unusual interest. As a result I have seen my fair share of cheesy baseball films which all seem to be made by Disney. Well this book was like reading the script of one of these films and seemed to contain every cliché going.

Now of course this book was written in 1952 and the ideas within the novel would not have been cliché at time of publication, I know this. But having seen my fair share of baseball films I am afraid that I inwardly groaned when the next plot development crept in.

The main character Roy is a self destructive man with a major chip on his shoulder. He is hired by the 'New York Knights' a team which is on a losing streak. Once Roy joins, the main star of the team, a man called 'bump' takes an instant dislike to Roy for no reason whatsoever and they become enemies. Roy then falls for the coaches daughter who happens to be the sweetheart of.......his enemy bump (surprised? I wasn't) I'm going to stop with the plot outline now before I cry.

I feel bad about this, the writing itself wasn't bad despite the lack of character development and to be fair Malamud did avoid the very last cliché which is used at the end of the film (you know where its all down to the player who is the last to bat and the team need a home run, then its strike one, strike two etc etc)

Malamud went onto win the Pulitzer prize with his novel The Fixer so perhaps I just read the wrong book? Perhaps the plot chiques are part of the point and not being a baseball fan I simply don't get it?

All I know is that the film version staring Robert Redford is apparently far far better.

Verdict 1/5

Posted by Jess


  1. Sounds pretty boring to me too. Baseball cliches? No thanks!

  2. I love baseball -- in season, I will watch just about any game, even if the team I root for isn't playing -- and have read alot of baseball books, but I have never read this one. I did see the movie, and loved it.
    I read my first Malamud book this year, The Assistant, and thought it was just eh.

  3. I don't think I'd like this book much either. Baseball really isn't my thing. Or sports stories in general.

  4. I spent a summer interning in the research library at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I'm still baseball-ed out from the experience (it was wonderful, but there are so many things in life I love more than baseball). I always intended to read this book, but I often dislike classics that are dated, so I'll stay away from this one and try W.P. Kinsella instead. I am impressed you read the whole thing!

  5. This book was a great read in my opinion. I really thought Malamud was brilliant in this book, but that is coming from a sports book fanatic. It had plenty of a plot going on not just all revolved around baseball. Read this book if you enjoy a good sports book.

  6. Here is a great story about a baseball player who was related to Babe Ruth in a way. 'The Babe' was (I think) the reason Malamud wrote this book. He bases his character around some of the traits of Babe Ruth.