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Amazing Grace

Cricket Society and MCC Book of the Year Awards, 2016

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781408705186

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 3rd September 2015

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Biography: General

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On a sunny afternoon in May 1868, nineteen-year-old Gilbert Grace stood in a Wiltshire field, wondering why he was playing cricket against the Great Western Railway Club. A batting genius, ‘W. G.’ should have been starring at Lord’s in the grand opening match of the season. But MCC did not want to elect this humble son of a provincial doctor. W. G’s career was faltering before it had barely begun.

Grace finally forced his way into MCC and over the next three decades, millions came to watch him – not just at Lord’s, but across the British Empire and beyond. Only W. G. could boast a fan base that stretched from an American Civil War general and the Prince of Wales’s mistress to the children who fingered his coat-tails as he walked down the street, just to say ‘I touched him’.

The public never knew the darker story behind W. G.’s triumphal progress. Accused of avarice, W. G. was married to the daughter of a bankrupt. Disparaged as a simpleton, his subversive mind recast how to play sport – thrillingly hard, pushing the rules, beating his opponents his own way.

In Amazing Grace, Richard Tomlinson unearths a life lived so far ahead of his times that W. G. is still misunderstood today. For the first time, Tomlinson delves into long-buried archives in England and Australia to reveal the real W. G: a self-made, self-destructive genius, at odds with the world and himself.


The cricketer W. G. Grace is instantly recognisable as an icon of the Victorian age, if only by virtue of his impossibly bushy beard, but as Richard Tomlinson emphasises in this terrifically readable biography, he was, in his time, at the cutting edge of modernity. Grace dominated the game to an extent matched later only by Australian Donald Bradman and was the word's first sporting superstar
Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday
Amazing Grace is a fluently written study, imbued with humour and sympathy, that yields many insights as well as much pleasure
David Kynaston, Daily Telegraph
A compelling book that uncovers a man as complex and contrary as any in Victorian society
Mail on Sunday
Industrious, witty, insightful, this biography ought to be the standard work on W.G. for years to come
Sam Kitchener, Independent
It's a pleasure to read a biography as thoughtful and assiduous as Richard Tomlinson's . . . Tomlinson clearly likes [Grace] as well as revering him, and so did I after finishing this lovingly crafted piece of work
Markus Berkmann, Daily Mail
Richard Tomlinson's magnificent biography of sport's first global superstar
Jim White, Daily Telegraph
Scrupulously researched and well written
Simon Heffer, New Statesman
What makes [Tomlinson's] book so refreshing is that he is entirely clear-sighted about his subject's foibles . . . [he] effectively conveys the sheer competitive drive that made him so successful . . . offers some intriguing glimpses of the anxieties that made him stay so long and probably made him such a great player . . . [Grace] emerges from this book as Ian Botham, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Gascoigne and David Beckham rolled into one: a symbol not just of Victorian England, but of sport itself
Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
My biography of the year . . . a revelatory study of the giant who remains cricket's most iconic figure
Tom Holland, Evening Standard