“The miracle of the Castel di Sangro” by Joe McGinnis

This novel gives me major throwback at when Mia was just a little bundle of… Cries and poos mainly. Toddlerhood is just so much better! Don’t believe the hype of the newborn! Anyway… I read this while I was on Mat Leave and even in my confused state, I loved it. Also, Captain Lunch got me the edition with the crazy red and yellow cover, which I also loved.

What is it about?

Ok so… Sport books, when good, are really good. I suppose this applies to everything and all sorts of books, but in a way it is truer with sports. Normally, you would find your shadow writer for a famous sportman/woman, or some technical essay on a specific topic, or just some sensationalist piece written to stir the poo in a certain sporting world. This one no. This one is about an American journalist who loves football. Already intrigued, my friend? You should be. Because we are talking “soccer”, not American football. And not only he’s into his football, but he is also very knowledgeable and he goes to Castel di Sangro, a very remote village in the middle-South Italy, to cover a season of the local football team in Serie B (the second highest league in Italy), to which they were somehow and miracolously promoted the previous season.

What makes it good?

It starts as a journalistic enterprise, and it ends full blown thriller, almost. Without spoilers, that season was crazy, to use one word. Joe gets very involved in the life of the team and its colourful characters (starting from the president, to the coach, to the players, to fucking everyone in the village). Some are grated by the “presence” of the author and seem to think the book is more about him than not. I do not agree with this. McGinnis is for sure part of the story, but I look at him as the vehicle for the story to move forward and yes, he is quite a relevant part of the story but he would have been even for the people in Castel di Sangro, who I am sure had not seen many Americans (and probably none who liked football) before the arrival of the author. I am Italian and I did not feel offended, I found McGinnis’ perspective interesting and also full of love for the place.

The style

We were saying that McGinnis is a “character” within the story, and he is, truly, a character. Quite funny and witty, his prose goes by quick and it immerses you in the story he is telling. High marks for its clipping and entertaining pace.

Final Mark

I really liked it and I remember reading it even in the middle of the night when up with the little one for her night feed. The sign of a good book is that, after finishing it, I Googled the main characters in it, and I was in for a couple of surprises… Do Google them, you are in for a treat.


On Goodreads.

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