#Bookvent – Celebrating my top reads of 2021
The second of my day twenty tour #bookvent choices is another one I read right at the start of the year, but one I knew straight away had made a huge impact in me. I’m not going to lie, the subject matter of this book, or at least one element of it, left me a little uncertain as to how much I was going to like the book. I have limited interest in sport on a good day, but of all sports on the planet, watching football is right up there with watching paint dry for me on the ‘list of things I want to do today’. But to write the book off because of the bag of wind element would be to do this story a disservice as it goes so much deeper than a saturday league match or too. It is truly emotional and one I always knew would be in my top three reads. My second Christmas Eve pick is …
There’s Only One Danny Garvey by David F. Ross
Danny Garvey was a sixteen-year old footballing prodigy. Professional clubs clamoured to sign him, and a glittering future beckoned.
And yet, his early promise remained unfulfilled, and Danny is back home in the tiny village of Barshaw to manage the struggling junior team he once played for. What’s more, he’s hiding a secret about a tragic night, thirteen years earlier, that changed the course of several lives. There’s only one Danny Garvey, they once chanted … and that’s the problem.
A story of irrational hopes and fevered dreams – of unstoppable passion and unflinching commitment in the face of defeat – There’s Only One Danny Garvey is, above all, an unforgettable tale about finding hope and redemption in the most unexpected of places.
I loved this book. There. It’s said. Obvious really, as it’s on my top three books of the year, in spite of the football. Or perhaps because of it. I’m not sure. There is no getting away from it – football is a big part of this story, and of the life and times of our eponymous hero, Danny Garvey. One time local hero, injured in the ‘line of duty’, back to save the day and the club. Maybe. That’s the story in the very basic of terms. But it is far from being the whole story. In true David F. Ross style, he has brought us a story which is full of memorable characters, often humorous situations, but a whole heap of emotion and such beautiful narrative style that I was absolutely mesmerised and completely invested from the first page to the last. This book is multi layered and the more we learn of Danny Garvey, of what drove him to success and the demons he carries with him as he returns home, the more emotional the story becomes. It is both coarse and tender at the same time, the match days at Barshaw Bridge FC adding colour and life to the quieter and more impactful moments that the author slowly reveals about Danny. Bear in mind this is minor league football in the nineteen nineties. With Scottish banter thrown in. Need I say more?
Told predominantly from Danny’s point of view, there is a sense of melancholy to the story, and not just in his reluctance to return home. He has a very complicated past, a difficult family life, so much of which would resonate with many readers. Even as he succeeds with the club. you can feel the slow erosion of his own personality, part of him being stripped away with each turn of the page. You can almost see him shrinking on the page, and he is hardly the most forthright or gregarious of characters to begin with. He is a character I wanted to read more about, and David F. Ross has captured his attempts at atonement perfectly. Interspersed with this are chapters told from the points of view of other characters, chapters that add texture and context to Danny’s story, challenging you to think more about what you thought you knew. There is a tenderness between Danny and his nephew Damo, an understanding of a child whose personality was, at the time, little understood, and that connection and vulnerability of the two characters, really adds to the emotional drive of the book.
This is, in essence, the story of a former football star helping a team to success. It’s post match fights, sausage rolls and pints down the pub. It’s moments of melancholy and scenes to make you laugh out loud. David F. Ross is a beautiful writer who captures emotion perfectly, whether we are at the heart of a match day brawl, that moment of excitement where players are faced with a make or break penalty, or those fractions of calm where we are simply faced with Danny and his recollection of the past. It is a story of loyalty, family, of past transgressions and of atonement. It explores the fragility of both mind and body; a story of hope but also of ultimate sadness. It is a book which had me absolutely enthralled from the off, a beautiful narrative in which even the more difficult elements are handled with care and understanding and that has a real capacity to surprise me. It is so much more than ‘football’. So, so much more. And I loved it.
You can. read my full review of There’s Only One Danny Garvey right here.
Happy #bookvent reading all