I remember very little from my school basketball playing. I doubt that I ever understood the rules, which could explain why I was never keen. That, and my general inability with ball games. The thread of basketball runs through all of Tall Story by Candy Gourlay, David Fickling’s new find. He’s done well this time, because Tall Story is the kind of book which even as early as in January you can say will be one of the best in 2010.
Early on I knew it was going to turn out to be a marvellous book, and a little further along I knew it would be much more than that. I was quite annoyed at reaching the end, except that I wanted to know how it ends.
Apart from the basketball we have the two opposite worlds of London and the Philippines, and I can safely say I’ve never read a Philippine novel before, and I’m glad I started with this one. 16-year-old Bernardo lives in a village in the Philippines with his aunt and uncle while waiting for permission to join his mum in London and his stepfather and his half-sister Andi who’s 13. Sixteen years is a long time to wait.
Bernardo is tall, which is good for basketball, except he doesn’t play. But as Bernardo says, ‘Michael Jordan is my biggest fan’. His English tends to get a little muddled. And maybe eight feet is a wee bit too tall. Andi is very small, but she does play, and very well, too.
In the Philippines Bernardo has lived surrounded by superstition, and being a giant hasn’t helped. Or maybe it has. People don’t want him to leave. His best friend wants him to play basketball. In London Andi has to put up with a new school and not being allowed to play, despite wanting to.
This seriously humorous book is incredibly sweet. The way Candy has woven what happens into an intriguing story is most impressive. Everything is there for a reason, except you don’t know why to begin with.
It’s another of the rare books I wanted to re-read as soon as I got to the end.