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Bowlaway Reviews

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken


Elizabeth McCracken

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Jonathan Cape Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 14 Mar 2019
ISBN: 9780224087117

From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the beginning of the twentieth century - nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin and fifteen pounds of gold on her person - Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts.

4 stars out of 5
30 Apr 2019

"Elizabeth McCracken's multi-generational epic on bowling and family bonds"

Bowlaway is McCracken’s third novel, alongside two collections of short stories and a memoir. Her delightful voice and poetic facility have been present since her debut novel, The Giant’s House (1996), a small story, delicately and intimately told. Here the framework is far more ambitious. If The Giant’s House were a petit fourBowlaway would be a towering, hearty, multi-tiered cake, dazzling and confident in its construction.


4 stars out of 5
Wendy Erskine
23 Mar 2019

"this is a funhouse of a novel"

With its whimsy and wackiness, this is a funhouse of a novel. Even the most incidental of characters are granted glorious vignettes: a man, for instance, discovered handcuffed to a showerhead and wearing a woman’s girdle announces himself to be Professor Hackert, of Calculus. Professor Hackert, we are told, ‘like most people, could not quite sort out humiliation from pride’. Prospective lovers begin their courtship with mutual phrenological examinations; a memorial figure is constructed out of old candlepins. Someone spontaneously combusts; a ghostbuster arrives in town... ‘Roll the ball and wait and see,’ Roy Truitt says as he coaches Betty Cracker Graham; ‘you think the ball’s gone, but then it hits the wall and comes back and maybe you have a strike. Nothing is for sure.’ And so it is in the unpredictable and startling world of Bowlaway.

4 stars out of 5
Lucy Atkins
10 Mar 2019

"It is exuberant, a bit bonkers and raw and unflinching"

McCracken is a firecracker stylist and every sentence, every image, is crafted for physical impact — pink blossom hangs from trees like lungs, a man’s tie licks the floor like a tongue. She lines up a colourful cast of contortionists, show girls and ghost hunters, then knocks them down with spontaneous combustion, molasses floods or slabs of stone. However, all the jaunty eccentricity and whimsy can feel tiresome, and in fact the quieter, more ordinary moments are generally more powerful....Bowlaway though, is not supposed to be a quiet book. It is exuberant, a bit bonkers and raw and unflinching. It will find a great many fans — and no doubt some awards, too. If you enjoy quirks and eccentricities, cranks and loons, you’ll probably love it.