Around The World With Yeovil Town, by Michael Bromfield - Tempus Publishing - £12.99
Not many shy retiring types become millionaires, the likes of Jon Goddard-Watts or the Barclay brothers excepted. And the author of Around The World With Yeovil Town, Michael Bromfield, isn't one of those exceptions that proves the rule.
Book reviews don't generally concentrate on the author, but this book is very much about Bromfield, with Yeovil Town, and indeed much of the rest of the World, a backdrop. Amidst the 'if it's Thursday it must be Timbuktu' one learns a lot about Michael. Perhaps more than he intended; and, for the more private amongst us, more than maybe we'd feel comfortable revealing. Refreshing openness, or overweening egotism? One's view of Michael gleaned from these pages will, to a large measure, determine whether one enjoys this book or not.
Written and dictated every few days over the 2004-05 football season the source material ran to over 600,000 words - longer than Lord of the Rings, as Bromfield charmingly admits one publisher's rejection letter pointed out. The finished product runs to a more realistic 256 pages. Outside of some introductory and concluding material the structure of the book is based around the sequence of matches played by Yeovil throughout their second season in the Football League, each one providing a 'chapter'.
The book crosses over two potential, and crowded, markets: Football Fan Writes About, and Travel Writing. Amazon chooses to reference it under 'Sports, Hobbies & Games' rather than 'Travel & Holiday'. However both markets have produced a certain genre, and are linked by a common factor. Whether the work provides the reader with a feel, be it for the experience of the club, its season and being a fan in the former, or for the places and people in the latter, determines the success or otherwise of the writing. So does Around The World With Yeovil Town have 'feel'?
This question brings us back to the author, again. There's too much Bromfield, particularly on the travel side of the book. I didn't get much of a feel for the places Michael visited. Argentina was best, perhaps because this was new to the author, and seen and recorded through fresh eyes. Of the people he came across one only gets glimpses, often tantalising glimpses that leave you thirsting to know more about them. This thirst is rarely quenched, because potential stars in the making are generally only accorded the role of extras in the book.
On the football side the book works better. Firstly there's the variety between the fifteen games Michael was in this country to see, and those recorded as secondhand experiences in distant climes. He was extraordinarily lucky too, his visits home coinciding with many of the classic matches of the season. Football is all about opinions, as the cliché goes, and when reporting on games, players and giving his views the author may not have much that's particularly original to say, but most of what he expounds is sensible. Or, to put it another way, there wasn't too much this reviewer disagreed with. There are some insightful comments of a wider nature too, though again more of the sort where other fans will tend to say : 'Yep, fair shout'; rather than : 'Wow, I'd never thought of it in that way before'.
Of the matches Bromfield didn't attend, which is of course the main theme of the book, there are only so many different ways one can record making or taking a phone call, or logging onto the Internet, even if it is from various parts of the planet. It's now possible to say that's less than thirty-nine.
So, is this book worth buying? It depends who you are. As someone who had followed the season closely and seen all but two matches, and who has read it when that campaign is still fresh in the mind, it didn't offer enough surprises. There could be more value coming to it in a year or two when the memories have dimmed and need refreshing. For those Yeovil fans who couldn't get to so many games it can be recommended as a solid account, from an unusual perspective, of a great season and time in the club's history. For the football rather than the Yeovil fan, looking for a read relating to a team other than their own, there are alternatives out there with more of that 'feel' factor.
In the final analysis, if you come away from it rather liking the author you'll have rather liked the book. Despite qualms about its literary qualities - one definite recommendation, should there ever be a sequel, is to leave SHIFT resolutely alone when using the '1/!' key - this reviewer did indeed come away rather liking Michael Bromfield.