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A Natural

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  586 ratings  ·  111 reviews
Tom has always known exactly the person he is going to be. A successful footballer. A man others look up to. Now, though, the bright future he imagined for himself is threatened.

The Premier League academy of his boyhood has let him go. At nineteen, Tom finds himself playing for a tiny club in a town he has never heard of. But as he navigates his isolation and his desperate
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 2nd 2017 by Jonathan Cape
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
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Peter Boyle
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This novel is all about football. Wait, my bookish friends, come back! It also examines weighty themes: identity, masculinity, the journey from adolescence into adulthood. Most importantly, it explores what can happen when the worlds of sport and sexuality collide.

Tom Pearman is a 19-year-old footballer who has just been released from his contract with an English Premier League club. With no other options available, he signs a year long deal with Town, a League Two outfit. This is a different pl
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thing that should not be underestimated as you read through my thoughts on A Natural is just how much I hate sports – which probably raises the question of why I decided a book about football/soccer to begin with, to which I can answer: if I had understood the extent to which this book is about football/soccer, I probably would not have picked in up in the first place. Instead I’d seen it billed as a coming-of-age novel about a gay footballer, and I suppose I thought the football/soccer woul ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
(This review contains references to a plot point which some may consider a spoiler. However, it's so central to the book that there'd have been no point in me writing any kind of review without mentioning it. You have been warned.)

Tom is a talented young footballer who has always seemed destined for stardom. He's spent years training with a local Premier League club, with the implicit assumption they would ultimately sign him. But that doesn't happen, and instead, Tom moves hundreds of miles awa
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This story has been dubbed a slow burner, of emotional poignancy, about the ultimate taboo of a gay footballer. But the world, which is supposed to be filled with raw emotion, sportsmanship, and tormented characters is actually a world filled with the dull, the paranoid, and the melodramatic. I wanted to like Tom, the 19 year old, gay footballer, who has yet to come out to himself -- Raisin, however, never allows the reader to fully experience Tom's pain. No sooner are we about to explore an emo ...more
Chris Blocker
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let's get something out of the way. I don't always like the rules. I think all of us can agree that sometimes the rules are stupid. I don't always play by the rules, but sometimes I do. And sometimes I just dance around the issue discussing the rules instead of getting to the point... I was raised in the States and so, we have a little sport we call soccer. Growing up, I believed that's what its name was until, later in life, I learned that much of the rest of the world calls it football. That m ...more
"Mate, you know I don't mean any of it, yeah?" Beverly said.
Tom frowned, appearing confused, although he understood perfectly well and was already working out how to end the conversation.
"All this bullshit with Spence. I don't mean anything against you. It's just a laugh. It doesn't mean anything."
"I know."
"Probably half of them don't really mean anything by it. They don't know what they're saying. They just know they've got to say it. If you see what I mean."

Welcome to the weird world of sp
Paul Fulcher
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I thought, that boy’s a player. A natural. And I’m going to turn him into a man.

Many reviews of Ross Raisin's The Natural, particularly in the literary press and blog world, are from non-football fans and hence either put off by the football in the story or rather dismiss it as not necessary to appreciate the novel.

But as a fan of a lower league football club, AFC Wimbledon, I approached this as a novel about the sport, and am pleased to report that it holds up very well indeed.

Tom Pearman, a
Joanne Sheppard
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Natural by Ross Raisin is a quietly literary novel about a 19-year-old professional footballer who, upon being let go from a Premier League club in the north, is signed by a League Two club down south. Shy and introverted, Tom Pearman finds it hard to adjust; he's living in digs, his team are failing and he struggles to get along with the club's bullying manager as he succumbs to a succession of injuries. But Tom has a much bigger problem: he's gradually coming to realise that he might be gay, ...more
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
The story and especially the shy young guy who's at the centre of it are not holding my interest. The writing is fine, but I am just not caring about anything that's happening so far. I don't do well with dull, flat protagonists. Abandoned at the 15% mark. ...more
Ian Mond
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember having doubts about Stephen King’s long essay, Head Down, the penultimate story in his 1993 collection Nightmare & Dreamscapes. The piece, which was originally published in the New Yorker, chronicles the 1989 Little League baseball season for Owen King’s team, Bangor West. Surprisingly, it happens to be the most compelling work in the entire collection as King adroitly combines the rats and mice of baseball with a funny and heartfelt profile of a group of young boys struggling with th ...more
Mar 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
For such potentially interesting and though-provoking subjects – masculinity and sexuality within football – this book remains dull from first to last. And not only dull – it’s also bland, the style flat and leaden, the characters and dialogue equally so. It’s all of the “he says this then he does that then he does something else” variety with no nuance or shading or attempt to get into the characters’ inner lives. Many issues are touched on in the novel and that’s certainly to its credit. Ident ...more
Amy Tipper-Hale
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Raw and awkward - ‘Tommy’ is one of the most painfully vivid characters I’ve ever come across. Love, loathe or be completely indifferent to football, it really doesn’t matter. Friday Night Lights in Yorkshire. Save for a long train journey, take snacks and tissues.
Andrew Cox
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am usually very disappointed in books where the story revolves around sport. Football is usually the worst. The Damned United by David Pease and Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby being notable exceptions.
A Natural depicts lower division football and issues around sexuality. There are comparisons with Aravind Adiga's "Selection Day" which is about cricket in India & sexuality.
I love football but feel it is at times so out of touch with the rest of the world. Greed appears to be (particularly in top f
Nick Davies
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
My Mum loaned me this, after I expressed an interest in bildungsroman type novels, and though this was simultaneously more than 'coming of age' and not quite 'coming of age', it was a compelling and powerful tale.

The novel follows a talented young footballer as he struggles to adjust to life at a new club of lesser prestige, as well as struggling to come to terms with aspects of his sexuality and maturity within the fishbowl that is professional sport. There is a secondary narrative about a fell
Dec 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smart detail driven British novel about the intricacies and even the ambivalence of coming out told from the perspective of a mid-level football player just coming into adulthood.

It must be hard to write about life’s repetitive slog without the novel itself turning into a repetitive slog but Raisin manages to just pull it off with rich details like the cactus garden and watery hotel meals. A story of modern manhood and sports.

Gentle and naturalist approach to masculine storytelling.

I am a rom
Nicolas Chinardet
An engrossing study of alienation and it's many forms: how we become separated from who we think we are, from our team, from majority social moors, or from our families.

The structures of the chapters and paragraphs, and of some sentences are a little odd at times but it's still a great read, though I found the ending a little too open for my taste.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
A Natural is the story of a football dressing room. It's a lower league dressing room (specifically League 2, aka The Fourth Division). This is the bottom rung of professional football - below it is a land of semi-professionals, tradies by day and footballers at the weekend. The dressing room is populated by jaded old pros who have tried, and mostly failed, at higher league clubs; young kids torn between ambition and hope on the one hand and the trapdoor to non-league on the other; and just occa ...more
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Men’s football is still not ready for its first gay player. Raisin’s raw account of the grim realities of the lower leagues is reminiscent of football in the 1980s, before it’s commercialisation. It’s a dog-eat-dog world bereft of the glitz and glamour often associated with the profession.

He paints a world with a vast array of masculine identities, revealing how commonplace men’s suffering is, highlighting the absence of avenues for its release. Many cut isolated figures, with no-one to turn to
Atharv G.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: england
I decided to pick this up after the World Cup Final because I wanted a soccer-related story. This book definitely delivered on that front, but it also had very thought-provoking portrayals of many other themes. It never felt like the author was taking on more than he could handle, and I enjoyed the thorough discussions on masculinity, sexuality, identity, and what it means to be "natural" and "successful." Despite the seemingly intentional disconnect between the reader and Tom's internal thought ...more
Joseph Mitchell
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
You know it's a amazing book when you finish it and feel completely saddened and yet elevated. The story focuses on three characters, Tom, Liam and Leah set around the backdrop of football and hyper masculinity. It took me a while to get into as I'm so far removed and uninterested from the world of football that even the mention of a game or sport bores me. It's the main character 'Tom' who's conflicted understanding of his identity and the world around him that compels you to keep on reading, h ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty darned good read! Although I'm a massive football fan, that's definitely not a prerequisite to enjoy this book. Ross Raisin successfully builds a world where tension, excitement, and soul crushing angst can be felt by all (even non sports fans). There's something about football. It gets in your blood. You can feel it long after walking off the field for the last time. I know I still do. But this story is about so much more than football. It's about friends, rivalries, ambition, and workin ...more
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is reviewed at The Two Unfortunates football blog here. ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer-lit, favorites
I can’t stop thinking about this book. I don’t like sports, much less reading about them, but somehow Ross Raisin imbues the soccer scenes in A Natural with such emotion and physicality that I couldn’t help but devour them. The relationship between Tom and Liam is so taut, fraught, and devastatingly real. One of those books that I wanted to immediately read again as soon as I finished it.
Rue Baldry
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a sports fan, but I am fascinated by the peculiar upbringings, priorities and lifestyles of professional sports people. I enjoyed The Art of Fielding, in spite of knowing almost nothing about baseball. And I enjoyed this book, although I've never understood why anyone cares whether a ball goes over a white line or not.

The characters in this novel care about that a lot. For their own different reasons, their lives are all enmeshed into football. Tom is the central character (young, introv
Didn't expect to love the book as much as I did - the blurb sells it way too short. It's sad to think that the novel probably is not too pessimistic and I'm wondering if the reviewers stating that it feels too dated have ever immersed themselves in the world of football. At times it was hard to read about Tom's on-going struggles and the blatant homophobia from the team, from some of the friends, and the often bleak atmosphere of the novel really only got broken once (and not even then fully) - ...more
Steven Kay
I downloaded this book after reading gushing reviews in The Observer and The Guardian. Jude Cook in The Guardian described it as an exceptional novel – it presents “a brave and subtle portrait of a soul in torment. It’s a winner.” William Skidelsky in The Observer, said it is “is a gripping, mature, important novel. It would be a travesty if it does not win prizes.” I hesitated at the hefty £9.99 tag; then hesitated again, having read the Kindle sample and not having read much in that sample tha ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019, audiobooks, football
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Finished reading ... A Natural / Ross Raisin ... 16 July 2017
ISBN: 9781911214496

Reviewers describe this as a “gay footballer” and “coming of age” novel. Well, yes and no, in both cases, because to accept those descriptions at face value is to miss so much. To light on “football” is unfortunate in another way – you “don't” have to know about football at all. Football clubs are often seen as the last bastion of “real manhood” but the setting could be any sporting club, or indeed many other organis
Jake Goretzki
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 rounded up to 5 stars. My favorite read of the year so far.

As a fan of football, I'm always on the lookout for a perfect mix of drama and the workings of the sport at a professional level, and when I came across this book by chance it truly felt like I was about to get all that I ever wanted. I was partly right. A Natural is a literary look at loneliness and homophobia in the world of football, and how success is almost tied to denial, to hostility. It's bleak (or very british, if you'd like
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Leah *spoilers* 1 7 Feb 11, 2019 09:48AM  

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Ross Raisin is a British novelist. He was born in Keighley in Yorkshire, and after attending Bradford Grammar School he studied English at King's College London, which was followed by a period as a trainee wine bar manager and a postgraduate degree in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Raisin's debut novel God's Own Country (titled Out Backward in North America) was published in

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