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The Other Kingdom Paperback – January 1, 1999
Pierced by the Sun
A gripping tale of murder and redemption by the author of Like Water for Chocolate. Learn More
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Courtesy of Amazon, you can read the first few pages here. Note how skilfully the author introduces all the main characters while describing a training run. This is easily the best account I have ever read of how it feels to run far faster than you ever thought possible. Something similar happened to Jim Ryun when he "unintentionally" broke the world record for the half-mile while competing in a collegiate event in 1966, leaving world-class rivals far behind without any particular effort. Ryun took nearly five seconds off his personal best that day, and soon after broke the world record for the mile.
Bottom line: it's not a pure running story, by a long chalk. Instead, it shows convincingly how world-class sporting achievement must be rooted in a person's whole life.
One fascination for an Irish person like me is that it predates the Troubles in Northern Ireland: to read all those place names and streets in Belfast and surroundings without reference to bombs and hatred is refreshing and almost other-worldly. Once it was an innocent place, pre-occupied like most places with the quotidien, the everyday. It can be again.
I'm not sure that I believed that a man who is so reflective and beyond what surrounds him would be that successful an athlete but who's to know? Certainly he is a rich and priviledged young man, acknowledged in the writing, to the point where you wish he actually had to do something to get by.
The pieces on training with his friends and rivals are well done, the romance very believable, the love of the Irish countryside very authentic. The race descriptions though not the buildups are slightly flat to me. Overall a worthy and decent novel but way behind the definitive book of fiction on running: Once a Runner.