Tuesday, February 27, 2024


Inga Simpson
Hachette, $32.99

Willowman by Inga Simpson contemplates and celebrates the achievement of excellence in private and public life. The novel outlines the parallel stories of two “willow men”, firstly, Allan Reader, maker of cricket bats and oboist and, secondly, Todd Harrow, outstanding batsman, both representing the ways in which personal commitment to singularity of purpose give life meaning.

The early stages of the novel outline what it takes to grow the perfect piece of willow wood that is required to make a great cricket bat and Allan Reader’s commitment to this niche industry, transported to the Australian climate. Descended from a line of master batmakers, Allan is later reunited with his estranged daughter and teaches her the secrets of the craft, gaining a great deal of personal fulfilment in this new relationship and the chance to pass on his detailed knowledge.

The perfect piece of willow is crafted into a superior bat, which Reader gifts to upcoming batsman, Todd Harrow, who uses it with aplomb as he rises through the ranks of local, state and eventually international cricket. The novel traces the two stories together, as Allan follows Harrow’s experiences playing at increasingly competitive levels. Todd Harrow’s family breathe cricket, and Todd has an equally talented cricket playing sister, which allows Simpson to make a comment about the women’s game and the situation of female players in Australia today.

The novel is an engaging story about the role of excellence, whether that be artistic, creative or athletic and how that can propel you to the heights of your particular field. A good yarn well told.

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