*Spoiler Alert* If you don’t want to know how the story ends, avert your eyes from the title of this book now. Phew – that was a close one!
Many people claim this to be one of the finest football novels ever written. If that’s true (I haven’t read many), then it might be that such a statement says more about the other football novels than about this one in particular. Despite the protestations of the book’s introduction, I’d personally say I very much see this as the ‘comic novel’ it claims not to be; a bit of well written fluff – perfect for young adults. Don’t get me wrong, I really did enjoy the three hours it took me to read, but I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend it to anyone within my peer group.
The narrator of How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A Cup is the club’s secretary, who has been gifted a share of the F.A. Cup prize money in order to create the official history of the football club. We are invited to relive the events with him, as he attempts to recall the key characters and moments as part of his drafting process. The narrator shares gossip and tales from the village (that we are reminded won’t be included in the official history) and so the book becomes more of a loose observation on village life. We never get to really find out too much about the narrator himself, who hints that he’s in the midst of a form of mid-life crisis, and that it’s his ongoing search for a purpose that has ultimately brought him to Steeple Sinderby, but it’s definitely the more well-observed, existential moments from the narrator where the book scores it’s occasional small victories.
The book’s author, J.L. Carr, was an interesting character. He turned his back on what he saw as an obscene literary world, and so, as you’d imagine, there is a strong sense throughout the book of the author’s anti-establishment leanings. Indeed, this is no more prevalent than with regards to the anti-hero of the book – the village vicar’s atheist sister – who regularly “preaches” a strong anti-capitalist sentiment. This makes me think that if I’d read Steeple Sinderby… when I was a teenager (or perhaps younger) I would have been completely absorbed by it, and would perhaps now look upon it with more reverence. That may sound patronising, but I’m not a proper book reviewer, so I think I can get away with it.
I liked it, but I just wanted a lot more.