This is a great holiday-read about families, friends and the culture of cricket. John Harms is a PK (Pastor's Kid) from a Lutheran family steeped in sport, red wine and a "Gospel not law" approach to life. John, or "Darkie" to his mates, goes on tour in his beloved 1982 Camira, following the Australia-England 1998/99 Cricket Test Series.
His Camira is a "beautiful car", but beset with a speed wobble, oil and water problems and bumper bars that need bolstering with tape. John likens this in a way to his own process of growing up, as he approaches the high speeds of 40 without the security of a Test career, wife & kids, or a Geelong premiership.
There are some hilarious moments as he crosses the Nullabor, goes undercover in the Barmy Army, and recalls childhood stories of cricket, Christmas and romance (although it's a little hard at times to ascertain where childhood ends and adulthood begins).
Throughout the chronicling of the Ashes series, won by Mark Taylor's boys 3-1, John is tormented by memories of his unrequited love for "Grace", a Brisbane actress set in the mould of Uma Thurman.
In some ways, John ends up portraying himself as the performer within a cast of loveable characters known as Spoiler, Sparrow, Kruges, Bimbo, Sheeds and, of course, his cat Ablett. The cricket writing reflects a deep love for (and knowledge about) the game, its history, culture and place in Australian society.
The tribute to the two Captains' final speeches revealing "a sense of the fraternity, which is genuine, (and) more important than the antagonism, which is stylised" is moving.
It would be great for the author to apply his democratic gaze to the world of politics, with its traditions, characters and famous tied matches. Well-worth a read over the summer months.
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