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Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew
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Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  1,011 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
Some remember his impressive career stats ... others recall his on-field arrogance. Some say he fixed matches . . . others say he was dropped for being Tamil! Who exactly was Pradeep Mathew? And what became of him?

WG Karunasena, a man who spent 64 years drinking arrack and watching cricket decides to find out ...If you have never seen a cricket match; or if you have and it
Paperback, 416 pages
Published 2010
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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
Usman Hickmath
Mar 28, 2017 Usman Hickmath rated it it was amazing
Fierce war, suicide bombings, change in government after 17 years, weakening economy, struggling middle class families and in the midst of all a cricket team which was the only solace of people: Shehan has taken this backdrop to tell the story of an exceptionally talented, rebellious and mysterious cricketer and a retired sports journalist.

Never in my life had I imagined that someone will take the story of bars and betting centers of Colombo, prestige issues and politics involved in school crick
Sairam Krishnan
Sep 12, 2015 Sairam Krishnan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had been thinking about buying this particular novel for some time, and I found it at the Landmark at the Mylapore City Centre, now defunct. They were closing down, and some genius had stowed a beautiful yellow hardcover of Snehan Karunatilaka’s cricket novel in the lowest rung of a rapidly-emptying, discounted bookshelf. It was priced at INR 36, less than even the big glass of filter coffee at Saravana Bhavan, which is INR 45. I was overjoyed, and billed it immediately, lest someone recognise ...more
Waqas Mhd
Nov 10, 2011 Waqas Mhd rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2012 Amina rated it it was amazing
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
Indika De Silva
Jan 19, 2014 Indika De Silva rated it it was amazing
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 is S
May 25, 2010 Palmyrah rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 17, 2011 Nilu rated it it was amazing
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).

Mar 29, 2017 Shane rated it really liked it
A rather unusual novel that reads alternatively as a Cricket for Dummies instruction book and a History of Cricket scrapbook.

The author weaves himself into this fictional tale along with well-known international cricketers, and I wondered how he gets away with it, for some of these personalities are not painted in a favourable light. After many local rejections, the final international publisher of the book within this book also hints to taking it on because “getting sued is good for business” -
Jul 26, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 10, 2011 Sankarshan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: once-again
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.
Renuka Mendis
Jul 28, 2014 Renuka Mendis rated it it was amazing
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
Mark Staniforth
Jan 20, 2012 Mark Staniforth rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jun 14, 2012 Dimensions rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 20, 2013 Manish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, south-asia, own, 2013
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
Sep 20, 2013 ☕Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-view
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
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.
Praveen Palakkazhi
“In real life, justice is rarely poetic and too often invisible. Good sits in a corner, collects a cheque and pays a mortgage. Evil builds empires.
Sport gives us organisms that attack in formation, like India’s spin quartet and the three Ws from the Caribbean. Teams that become superhuman right before your eyes. Like Dalglish’s Liverpool, Fitzpatrick’s All Blacks, and Ranatunga’s Lankans.
In real life, if you find yourself chasing 30 off 20 balls, you will fall short, even with all your wickets i
Oct 06, 2015 McBugger rated it it was amazing
You don't have to have a passion for the game of cricket to be able to enjoy this book.

You don't have to have a passion with Sri Lankan culture to enjoy this book.

However, since this book's two principal themes are cricket and Sri Lanka, an inclination towards either or both of the aforementioned subjects will greatly enhance your reading experience. I am fortunate enough to have read Chinaman after having the privilege of travelling to the Emerald Isle and while being already well-versed in the
Jul 06, 2012 Anu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 it was amazing
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
Jun 19, 2012 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-kindle, atw80
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
Jul 23, 2015 NizRite rated it it was amazing
Just like a Sanath-Kalu innings of yore, this book grabs you from the word go and smashes you over the ropes, into the strange and baffling world of WG Karunasena. His mind is full of drink and cricket, and an all-encompassing obsession to find a cricketer now faded into oblivion, one WG believes is one of the world's forgotten greats. What follows is a (mostly drunken) romp to find him, involving cricketers, coaches, politicians, criminals (the last two of course not being two distinct groups), ...more
Uthpala Dassanayake
“Chinaman” is the best writing I have seen by a Sri Lankan Author. Adopting a unique writing style, Shehan Karunatilake tells us the story of “writing Pradeep Mathew’s story”. It’s funny and so close to truth.
Author has presented the Sri Lankan urban life much better than Ondaatje’s “Anil’s Ghost” or Romesh Gunasekara’s “Reef”. Though it is supposed to be the legend of Pradeep Mathew the cricketer, what the reader understand more about is the journalist W.G. Karunasena who writes his story. In
Jan 07, 2013 Indiabookstore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
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
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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.
More about Shehan Karunatilaka...

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“If a liar tells you he is lying, is he telling the truth.” 8 likes
“Sports can unite worlds, tear down walls and transcend race, the past, and all probability. Unlike life, sport matters.” 3 likes
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