The Book of Famem By Lloyd Jones

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The Independent Culture

This semi-fictionalised account of the All Blacks' first ever tour of Great Britain in 1905 is written in the first person plural, and records the New Zealanders' growing fame as they notched up a string of one-sided victories (final points tally 830 for, 39 against). There are good descriptions of the sporting action and of the New Zealanders' impressions of this crowded, industrialised, often inhospitable nation, while its nostalgic appeal is strong (it's nice to read about a rugby team who all smoke pipes).

All the same, one can't help thinking "So what?" from time to time. There is no real sense conveyed of why winning rugby matches is so important, nor, come to that, any explanation of why the New Zealanders are so much better at it than everyone else. Instead it is padded out by mundane details of menus, train journeys and boarding houses. Inside this 200-page book is a short story struggling to get out.