The Gift of Speed is the second book in the Australian suburbs trilogy (not the official title but it is how I am referring to the books!) by Steven Carroll.
After reading and loving the first book, The Art of the Engine Driver I was keen to keep moving with this series. The Gift of Speed picks up about 10 years after the first book, in October 1960, and although I liked to have the context of that first book in mind when reading this one it should be pointed out that the books could easily be read independently of one another.
The main focus of the story, as the title points out, is speed and how it can be achieved - especially in relation to the character of 16 year old Michael and his dream to bowl the perfect fast cricket ball delivery. Now, I don't think you need to be a cricket fan, or even necessarily have any cricket knowledge to enjoy this book - but it would help. Michael is obsessed with the game and his dream to be a fast bowler and his narrative in this book coincides with the West Indies cricket team tour of Australia over the summer of 1960/1961. Fortunately, although I wouldn't say I was a total cricket nut I do have some knowledge of the game thanks to growing up with a sports journalist for a father and a brother who reminds me a lot of Michael!
Although Michael's story isn't the whole of the story in this novel it is a great percentage of it - it is certainly the story that I was most interested in - how much do we want things when we are young (personally, I wanted to be a singer just like Olivia Newton John!) and how much does it hurt when we don't get them.
The rest of the story does keep showing us what is happening in Michael's suburb and particularly what is happening with his parents, Vic and Rita, and their relationship.
I did not enjoy The Gift of Speed as much as The Art of the Engine Driver but still a beautiful and memorable story which will lead me to reading this last book in the series.