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Chinaman: The legend of Pradeep Mathew

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  784 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Retired sportswriter, W.G. Karunasena is dying. He will spend his final months drinking arrack, upsetting his wife, ignoring his son, and tracking down Pradeep S. Mathew, an elusive spin bowler he considers 'the greatest cricketer to walk the earth'.

On his quest to find this unsung genius, W.G. uncovers a coach with six fingers, a secret bunker below a famous stadium, an L
Hardcover, 408 pages
Published 2011 by Random House India (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,941)
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Nancy Oakes
There is a Sinhalese expression "Konde bandapu cheena," which translates as "ponytailed Chinaman," and connotes someone gullible -- someone who will believe anything. A "Chinaman" in cricket terms is (according to Wikipedia) "a left-handed bowler bowling wrist spin (left arm unorthodox). For a right-handed batsman, the ball will move from the off side to the leg side (left to right on the TV screen). " The question asked by the narrator of this novel is this:

"Is this a story about a pony-tailed
Waqas Mhd
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year (2011).

Let me start with telling this first, I used to like and play cricket a lot. But over the time I just got dragged away from the game and lost all interest in the game. Now I hardly watch or play it. I am not interested in cricket anymore.

So for exactly this reason I was reluctant to pick this book up, thinking of it containing all sort of cricket clichés and stuff, which is another way of making myself bored. I only bought it on the force
This is very probably the first novel written in English by a resident Sri Lankan author that has any literary merit whatsoever. It's insightful, realistic, funny, ironic and a guaranteed page-turner to boot. I don't even like cricket, but it still kept me reading.

A full review, written from the point of view of a Sri Lankan reader, is available here.
I must slightly caveat this 5* - if you're interested in cricket, the subcontinent (especially Sri Lanka) and have a tolerance for fictional unreliable memoirs, then you may love this book. If you are deficient in any of these criteria, this may not be the book for you.

However- for those still with me - I think this is a wonderful book. All about unfulfilled ambition, and legacy. And the beauty of sport. The beauty and the glory and the capriciousness and the tragedy - in short, the romance. All
Most of the other reviews of this book that you’ll come across have been penned by people who love cricket and understand it properly. But as one who has done her best to avoid any exposure to the game ever since being dragged off to an interminable test match at the MCG by a well-meaning MIL in 1972, I am here to tell you that you can have a deep-seated antipathy to all forms of sport in general and you can rejoice in complete ignorance about cricket in particular - and still love Chinaman, The ...more
I won't say this is my favorite novel, nor one of my favorites. I will say I had more fun reading it than almost any other book I can think of.

I am a huge sports fan, but I don't know anything about cricket. The way this book approaches the sport makes it universal for any fan. The characters, the emotions and most of all the foreboding sense of doom of the underdog fan feels so familiar, and comfortable, to me.

But there is more to this book. The search for Mathew is funny, smart, and maddening
Probably the best Cricket oriented Novel, and one of the 'Best' novels I have read so far.

Despite being a debut novel the book does not reek of amateur writing. It transported me back to the days of reading 'Jeeves' and other works by P G Wodehouse. Shehan has managed to retain the same vein of wit running throughout the book.

Narrated through an aged, dying,alcoholic Sportswriter, we witness a tapestry of events that shaped Sri Lanka, told in a perspective of Cricket (the National Past time).

Renuka Mendis
I could write a book about Chinaman; but its late and I am a bit drunk. So consider this a shitty first draft. I hope its ok to say shitty on goodreads.

A post colonial post post modern and well earned insult to colonialism and its barbarities; legacies and loves. Consider jonny; ahem and cricket. And a sweet sweet love song to cricket the way Sri Lankans see it, do it and love it. A highly realistic tale about Colombo people; their lives, loves, hypocricies and most of all their sometimes madden
Dan Rimoldi
"I may be drunk but I am not stupid. Of course there is little point to sports. But, at the risk of depressing you, let me add two more cents. There is little point to anything. In a thousand years, grass will have grown over all our cities. Nothing of anything will matter." [pg. 14]

"Sports can unite worlds, tear down walls and transcend race, the past, and all probability. Unlike life, sport matters." [pg. 357]

I know what you're saying. Nobody in their right mind would want to read a book about
Failed Sportswriter, failed dad, irresponsible husband and alcoholic W.G Karunatilaka is convinced during the last years of his life, that one Pradeep Sivanathan Mathew who made a handful of appearances for Sri Lanka was and will always be one of the greatest cricketers to ever hold a cricket ball. Armed with this conviction and a bunch of buddies, Karunatilaka embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of this gem of Lanka and the reasons for his exploits purged from all o ...more
Having just come back from Sri Lanka to follow England in their 2 match Test series, this book had a special resonance to me, as the places, sounds and sights described by the author were still fresh in my mind.

While it was suggested that this book would appeal just as much to non-cricket fans, it has to be said having a knowledge of the sport is a distinct advantage. But I wouldn't let that put off those who aren't familar with cricket, if anything a lack of knowledge would add to the sense of
Mark Staniforth
Sports writer W.G. Karunasena is drinking himself to death. The way he sees it, he has no choice. He needs the arack to sustain him through his final assignment: to resolve the mystery of Pradeep Mathew, the greatest bowler he has ever seen, and a man whose fleeting fame and subsequent deletion from cricket history begs unfathomable questions.
In Chinaman, Karunasena, fondly known as Wijie by his friends and neighbours, and the most unreliable of narrators, given he is blind drunk most of the tim
This book is very much outside of my usual genre, as I have little interest in sports and know nothing about cricket, but something about the concept intrigued me. The story is centered around W.G. Karunasena's quest to learn what has become of Pradeep Mathew who, though arguably the finest cricket player in Sri Lankan history, has been largely forgotten. Understandably, this book is very heavy in cricket-related content, but it is so much more than a book about cricket. W.G.'s meandering narrat ...more
Indika De Silva
The following book contains 3 elements that is nearest and dearest to many Sri Lankans including myself. That is Cricket, Sri Lankan society/politics and alcohol. Shehan Karunatilaka takes us through a wonderful adventure through all these elements and much more in this rather long but highly enjoyable novel.

If you are a fan of cricket I highly recommend this book to you. If you wish to analyze the Sri Lanakan society grab this book. For crying out loud... If you have some part of you which Sri
A book about cricket... yes i know i live in South Asia and we're all a little obsessed with this game but a whole book seriously? The answer: OH YES PLEASE!!!!!. This book made me keep going back to Google and wishing with all my heart that the bowler Pradeep Mathews was a real person, that he existed, that he was as great as sports writer W.G. Karunasena made him out to be, that his life was mostly bad luck, that he did disappear to live a life of obscurity. I Googled not just him but all Sri ...more
Not quite sure how I'd rate this one-- I thought parts were brilliant, some was long-winded, and one storyline didn't seem to really fit the overall narrative--a narrative that is not straight-forward at all, but inventive and engaging. The end pulled it together for me, for the most part (one part was still a little hard-to-believe). Will look forward to seeing the reviews, glad I stayed with it to the finish.
You need to do a bit of reading up on the side about the matches and the players mentioned.But in all this is a splendid book.Calls out for a re-read.
Very much like a riveting Test Match. Some glorious attacking strokes by KP, interspersed with the stoic defence of Jonathan Trott, the excitability of Monty (yes I have been watching the series in India) combined with a barrage of stats to drive Beefy mad and enough barking madness and humour to have Aggers rocking and Johnners chuckling in his grave. However, I do think you need to be a cricket fan to like this novel as the made up bits about Pradeep are surrounded by actual cricketing events ...more
Simply amazing, this is the best book I have read this year. It is the People Magazine meets International Cricket meets Oprah of books!

Set in SriLanka, commenting on the Cricket scene in the 80s and 90s, this book to me was a bitter sweet reminder of the game I once loved and enjoyed through my own father's eyes. Having lived through the trauma of international cricket played in Sharjah, where India lost enough matches by fair or unfair means, I soon weaned off what should have been the nationa
Darren Goossens
Aug 20, 2013 Darren Goossens rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes a good novel of any kind
The novel aims high. It dissects Sri Lankan society, it dissects fame, and professional sport, and the mind of its author/protagonist. At its centre is the search by narrator W. G. Karunasena for the mysterious spin bowling genius Pradeep Mathew. The picaresque search lets Karunatilaka expound on everything from the art of spin bowling to the political history of Sri Lanka and the boorish behaviour of Australians. The protagonist is retired sports journalist, and the book is predominantly his st ...more
Our literary preferences are often a function of our own literary affectations. Those of us who are foolish enough to aspire to be writers invariably come across a work that we wish we'd created. The Moby-Dick of my nascent, but admittedly flagging, literary career is Shehan Karunatilaka's Chinaman. The author, in his modesty, might claim that the story is simply about an alcoholic sports journalist's quest to reconstruct the life and times of a mysterious spinner who played cricket for Sri Lank ...more
One of the best debut novels I have ever read. All the boxes are checked on this one: Sri Lanka, cricket, alcoholic liver disease, midget groundskeepers...

The structure of the novel was very interesting. For most of the book we have a classic unreliable narrator who towards the end of the book dies. For the next few chapters various characters from the book take over the narration before giving way to an important character who up to then had hardly been heard from. This narrator takes us to the
Michael Sanderson-green
Is the book truthful written to make you believe it's all lies or is it a lie written to make you believe it's the truth . Either way it's either great satire or a brave book, my guess it's mostly a true account of life , death and cricket in Sri Lanka . Very well and innovatively written it has that beautiful sub continent sense of humour . This book is worth reading if you want a sense of the island and it's people if you know nothing about cricket you will get that much from the book , the mo ...more
Harry Rutherford
A novel about an alcoholic Sri Lankan cricket journalist writing a biography about an obscure cricketer called Pradeep Mathews who he believes is the greatest bowler he has ever seen and an unsung genius of Sri Lankan cricket.

The book uses the real recent history of Sri Lankan cricket as a backdrop and weaves the mysterious Mathews into it, telling a lot of tall stories along the way. It's well written and a lot of fun—the boozy journalist narrator is a great character—and I really enjoyed it.
When I picked this up at the library I thought: "Ah, a light read", but I was very wrong. Initially I had a bit of difficulty getting into the story and about one third in I nearly stopped reading it. But then subtly the book grabbed me and did not let go. Because of the very clear descriptions about cricket one does not have to know cricket to love the book, but being a cricket lover really contributes to discovering layers and facets which may not be obvious to the non-cricket lover.

I really e
Sara Habein
This is a long novel, and because I'm not overly familiar with Sri Lanka or cricket, I would sometimes think, I'm not sure what he's talking about or what exactly is going on, yet I was enjoying myself. It takes a special sort of outstanding writer to make a non-sport person love reading 400 pages filled with it. Karunatilaka imbues W.G.'s voice with a subtle humor throughout, even as the man's health deteriorates.

(My full review can be found at Glorified Love Letters.)
Shehan Karunathilaka certainly has a way with words. I've noticed most Sri Lankan authors have a tendency write rather pretentiously; that they try too hard to sound impressive. Shehan's language flows like silk and the genius is in the subtle sentences that catch you off guard with a tickle.

It's a great book. And after reading and reviewing many contemporary Sri Lankan authors, I can tell you with no hesitation that this book is brilliant!

Note: You've just got to love Ari (a supporting characte
Full Stop

Review by Matt Baker

Sporting events have always existed, and for many of us they are nothing more than fleeting entertainment. But the high atmosphere of athletic greatness — the absurd talent of a single player — can possess a serious fan forever. Even if it’s an obsession with an obscure bowler who offered nothing more than an uncanny ability to hurl a cricket ball with such wizardry that his perfectly calibrated hang times made the ball appear to move s
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Shehan Karunatilaka lives and works in Singapore. He has written advertisements, rock songs, travel stories, and bass lines. This is his first novel.
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“If a liar tells you he is lying, is he telling the truth.” 6 likes
“When a New Zealand journo, with a nose resembling the beak of his national bird, asked me why Lankans have long names, I told him I would rather have a long name than a long nose. He replied he'd rather have a long you-know-what. Such is the insightful cricketing analysis that goes on in the press box.” 2 likes
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