When historical fiction is as well researched, and as powerfully written as “The Paper Man”, you can’t but enjoy the read. And in the hands of Billy O’Callaghan, you must know up front that you just might shed a tear or two…
This is a dual time-line novel based on true events. The 1930s time-line explores the short and illustrious life of renowned Austrian soccer player Matthias Sindelar (aka The Paper Man), including his one great love, Rebekah. Sindelar was voted the best Austrian footballer of the 20th Century in 1999, and was named Austria’s sportsman of the century a year before.
Sindelar’s beloved Rebekah, whom he never married, was Jewish. When Sindelar realized just how dire the circumstances were getting for Jews in 1938 he used his influence and connections to get her out of the country, and arranged for her to stay with cousins in Cork, Ireland.
In the 1980s time-line we meet up with Jack Shine who lives in Cork, Ireland and works as a stevedore on Cork’s docks. When Jack is clearing out the house he lived in with his mother growing up, he discovers an old shoe box filled with love letters, photographs, and newspaper clippings. His mother never told him about his father and she died of tuberculosis when Jack was only eleven years old. Now, as he delves into the letters and clippings, he becomes aware that his father is very likely the infamous footballer (ie soccer player), Matthias Sindelar.
This newfound knowledge turns Jack’s world on its axis. At the urging of his wife and in the company of his father-in-law, he makes the pilgrimage back to Vienna to learn more about the man Sindelar. He meets Sindelar’s best friend and visits many of the places the men frequented. Also, he visited his father’s grave…
I was totally immersed in “The Paper Man” and was moved by the writing and vividly drawn characters. If you are a fan of historical fiction, then I highly recommend you add this title to your TBR list.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my request from David R. Godine Publishers via Edelweiss.
ISBN: 9781567927856 – 248 pagesTwo of my favourite quotes from “The Paper Man”
“A marriage without hidden places is a fine notion but doesn’t take into account that, when all is said and done, everyone is still an island unto themselves and that even the most willing and eager hearts can only ever be prised so far open.”
“His young days remain with him in striking detail, and against that reality the relative stasis of adulthood often stands in pale comparison.”
Billy O’Callaghan was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1974, and is the author of three short story collections: ‘In Exile’ (2008) and ‘In Too Deep’ (2009), both published by Mercier Press, and ‘The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind’ (2013) published by New Island Books, which won a Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Award and which is forthcoming in a Chinese translation from CITIC Press in the summer of 2017. His first novel was “The Dead House” and his novel “My Coney Island Baby” was published by HarperCollins and is available now. His stories have been broadcast nationally on RTÉ Radio’s ‘The Book on One’, Sunday Miscellany and the Francis MacManus Awards series, and have appeared in more than 100 magazines and literary journals around the world.
Billy O’Callaghan lives in Douglas, a village on the edge of Cork City, Ireland.
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I very much enjoy historical fiction and had not heard of this book. I am not familiar with this soccer player, but it sounds like one that I would enjoy. I know Billy O’Callaghan’s writing is very descriptive and pulls a reader in, so I am adding this to my TBR. Great review, Lynne.
Wonderful Carla. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. He is a great writer.
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Fab review! This sounds like such a wonderful dual timeline story.
I loved it Yvonne. The only part I struggled a bit with was the first chapter which was set during a soccer/football game. I live in Canada and know next to nothing about soccer. O’Callaghan’s writing is a joy to read.
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I just finished this one and I thoroughly enjoyed it. His writing is so evocative.
I agree Cathy.
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