Today I’m hosting the blog tour for The Rainbow Player, a novel about life, love and football.
Disclosure: I received a copy of The Rainbow Player for review. The opinions below are my own and unbiased.
When I received the email inviting me to review The Rainbow Player, it caught my interest right away. I’ve never had much to do with football, as none of my sons were ever keen on it. Even so, I’m still aware that there are no openly gay footballers in the English Premier League. So a novel about a footballer questioning his sexuality definitely sounded very interesting.
But in fact The Rainbow Player is much more than a novel about sexuality. It’s the story of Sammy Hatchington, a young lad who loves playing football. He is picked up by talent scouts and joins the youth team of a top flight football club. On his journey towards becoming a professional footballer, he goes to college and makes firm friendships that last for life. He also forms a slightly less stable relationship with a girlfriend. Sammy has to cope with an abusive father and an abused mother, but has the support of his grandparents and Old Thomas, his surrogate father figure.
Much of the book follows Sammy on his journey towards adulthood and his dream career. It’s not an easy path for him, and he has to deal with a lot of upheaval and issues along the way.
The title of this novel gives a huge hint about where the story is heading. Throughout The Rainbow Player, there are hints about Sammy’s sexuality, although nothing is stated explicitly. So it’s not really a surprise when he forms a relationship with a male friend. This then has a dramatic impact on both his professional life and also on other friendships.
I was really impressed with the way that David Kerby-Kendall writes about some tricky subjects. His writing style is generally quite light-hearted which makes The Rainbow Player very entertaining to read. But that means that when he writes about a more dramatic incident, such as those involving Sammy’s dad, the impact is much greater.
Sammy is treated in an appalling way by fans and colleagues after his relationship hits the papers. And David Kerby-Kendall doesn’t hold back in describing what happens to him. It’s easy to see why people in all sports would be reluctant to discuss their sexuality. But novels such as this will help to take a small step towards opening up discussion. Hopefully, one day it will simply serve as a reminder of how much things have improved since the ‘bad old days’.
But it does feel like an opportunity was missed here as well. Sammy’s first gay relationship is only discussed in the final quarter of the book, and he is soon outed by someone he thought was a friend. There is an immediate impact on his life, and I feel that this could have been discussed at greater length. The final part of Sammy’s story, and the resolution of the novel, feels a little bit rushed. I felt quite emotionally invested in Sammy by this point, and would have liked to have seen more discussion about his emotions at the start of his relationship.
England footballer, Sammy Hatchington, has never considered sexuality before. As a teenager, Sammy broke the mould of his youthful peers with his desire to open the door to life’s endless possibilities. He escaped a deprived estate and, with the help of Old Thomas, his surrogate father, Davey, his soul-mate, and Gran, the connoisseur of footballer’s bottoms, launched himself on a path toward his personal and professional goals. Now, several years later, he must make a decision that could destroy everything he has fought for, and create a furious media frenzy………
David Kerby-Kendall’s joyous and witty novel challenges preconceptions about professional sportsmen and love, and is also a delightful and moving story of a young man’s journey to self-knowledge.
An entertaining read about a serious subject: 7/10
The Rainbow Player is available in paperback and Kindle format, published by Whiteley Publishing