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Tale of soccer and sexuality hits the target

By Julie Vuong

Football might be our national sport, but relatively few books are dedicated to the beautiful game.

Even more scarce are those set in English football's lower rungs. It's here, in League Two, that acclaimed British author Ross Raisin sets his new novel, A Natural.

Tom Pearman, a once-promising England youth player, is coming to terms with a new life at Town, a club languishing at the bottom of the table, and with his own sexuality.

This is matched with the struggles of Leah Easter, the captain's wife, who realises her own dreams have been substituted for her husband's career.

Unlike his lyrical debut, God's Own Country, Raisin relies on bare, stripped-back prose to allow Tom's sense of displacement to fully amplify.

There are visceral moments, on and off the pitch, but A Natural's storytelling purposely avoids Messi-like flourishes.

Raisin should be applauded for tackling sexuality within football.

Belfast Telegraph

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