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The Amateurs – John Niven Review

The Amateurs – John Niven Review

the-amateurs-john-nivenReleased: July 2014

Best known as the author of Kill Your Friends – the superbly biting satire on music industry moguls, John Niven has a talent for writing wickedly seething prose and creating improbable scenes which could actually happen.

The Amateurs is no exception. Creating an intertwining tale of four characters, Niven’s story of golfing prowess and neurological mishaps features central protagonist Gary, the innocent and loveable Mr Ordinary whose dreadful golf skills are suddenly transformed after being struck on the head by golf ball.

As the news of Gary’s new found glory spreads, he finds his dream of being an exceptional talent in the game has its drawbacks, and in the breathtakingly tense final, the hopes of all the characters rests on Gary’s performance.

Golf is perhaps an unusual basis for a novel, but there is no denying the subject matter works. Significantly, while there is plenty of golfing jargon and references to the game, it is never presented in such a way that you feel alienated from it, but actually find yourself enjoying it.

Those already familiar with Niven’s work will have come to love his tragi-comic interplay, and The Amateurs delivers that here. Treating the head-injuries Gary receives with a mixture of touching sympathy and hilariously overblown side-effects, Niven’s writing soars as much as Gary’s swing.

Set in Scotland and featuring a thick Scottish dialect throughout the prose, readers should be aware some phrases do need reading twice to get the full meaning, but it is easy enough to get used to, and you actually find yourself reading the whole book as if you were born and bred in Ayrshire yourself.

The Amateurs is funny, engaging, touching, and features just enough wanking jokes to keep the guys happy. Bordering on the ridiculous, Niven keeps it all in check just enough to somehow make it believable. For those new to Niven’s writing, this is a good place to start, and those already familiar will lap it up every time. Beg, borrow or steal this book.

★★★★

 

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