“Amazing Grace – The Man who was WG” by Richard Tomlinson (Little, Brown, 2015)
- ISBN: 9781408705179
- Publication date: 03 Sep 2015
- Page count: 432
- Imprint: Little, Brown
Review by Ben " Chalky " White
This is the Centenary Biography of arguably Britain’s greatest ever sportsman. It’s a comprehensive review of his life within the game and the wider social scene of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Several have written about the great man but this book is probably the most in-depth and structured book around his career as a Doctor and cricketer. However, WG’s greatest achievement was to become the first ever world sports star. Think Beckham, Jordan, Tendulkar and Tiger and multiply them all several times over. WG would attend parties and events around the world (even in America) attended by Presidents, Queens and religious figures but he would be the star of the show. His natural stature and (it would seem from this book) likeable demeanour meant he was able to transcend sport and social culture globally. Locally though, from Stapleton, Downend and Winterbourne, he was the same whoever he met.
He was also the first sports star to play competitively. Although, an Amateur he found numerous ways to make money either before, during or after a match. This book details the ingenious ways of his money-making as well as his mismanagement of it. The only cricketing downside he had was playing his Test matches a few years too late – his first Test Match was in 1880, when he was 32, some 16 years after his First Class debut and several years after the real weight of his run scoring. Although the fielding standards and bowling may not have been the same as today; the fact he played on terrible wickets, with heavy bats and pads, he still managed to score over 2,000 runs in a season 5 times and over 1,000 in a season an incredible 23 times! He played First Class cricket for an unbelievable 44 seasons. The man was a legendary cricketer and the most famous person alive in Victorian Britain.
8 Chalk Marks
On a sunny afternoon in May 1868, nineteen-year-old Gilbert Grace stood in a Wiltshire field, wondering why he was playing cricket against the Great Western Railway Club. A batting genius, 'W. G.' should have been starring at Lord's in the grand opening match of the season. But MCC did not want to elect this humble son of a provincial doctor. W. G's career was faltering before it had barely begun.
Grace finally forced his way into MCC and over the next three decades, millions came to watch him - not just at Lord's, but across the British Empire and beyond. Only W. G. could boast a fan base that stretched from an American Civil War general and the Prince of Wales's mistress to the children who fingered his coat-tails as he walked down the street, just to say 'I touched him'.
The public never knew the darker story behind W. G.'s triumphal progress. Accused of avarice, W. G. was married to the daughter of a bankrupt. Disparaged as a simpleton, his subversive mind recast how to play sport - thrillingly hard, pushing the rules, beating his opponents his own way.
In Amazing Grace, Richard Tomlinson unearths a life lived so far ahead of his times that W. G. is still misunderstood today. For the first time, Tomlinson delves into long-buried archives in England and Australia to reveal the real W. G: a self-made, self-destructive genius, at odds with the world and himself.
About The Author
A historian and former playing member of MCC, Richard Tomlinson received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University before becoming an award-winning international journalist with the Independent, Fortune and other publications in Europe, North America and Asia. In Amazing Grace: The Man who was W.G., Tomlinson combines his passion for cricket and historian's eye to connect Grace's astounding feats on the playing field with an imperial landscape populated by a Dickensian cast of characters who crossed his majestic path, from failed Australian gold rush speculators and an American Civil War hero to the syphilitic secretary of MCC.
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