The Natural by Bernard Malamud

Robert Redford played Roy Hobbs in the 1984 film version of Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel The Natural.  The very dated edition of the novel that I borrowed from the library had Robert Redford on the cover.  As I began reading, my imagination couldn’t help but make me think of Redford as Hobbs; however, as I continued reading, in my imagination, Redford morphed into Humphrey Bogart. The novel has a film noir feel with many morally ambiguous men, including Hobbs, himself, chasing after women whom I could easily imagine as Lauren Bacall.

As a thirty-five year-old rookie, Hobbs finally sees his dream of playing in the big leagues realized as he signs on with the Knights in Chicago.  Hobbs is an enigmatic character and that mystery and vagueness only work sometimes.  More often than not, I found myself in the role of Max Mercy, the reporter bent on finding out who Hobbs really is.  Answers are very slim – to Mercy and the reader.

The atmosphere and time period are developed well by Malamud giving the reader an idea of a time when Ebbet’s Field was still standing and the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.  However, the atmosphere wasn’t enough for me to consider this a great novel. Perhaps in the realm of baseball novels, it was good, but I prefer W. P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe.

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6 responses to “The Natural by Bernard Malamud

  1. Huh. My family watched this movie over and over when I was a kid, and I have a fondness for it yet, so based on your review of the book, I think I’ll stick with the movie version 🙂

    • I wouldn’t consider this to be a bad book – I just didn’t think it was great. I have never seen the movie even though I have always thought it looked good. This is a sheer guess, but I think Glenn Close’s character in the movie was significantly expanded from the book. I’m going to have to watch the movie now!

      • I actually didn’t realize it was a book, even!

        Glenn Close is only in the beginning and the end, really. And maybe a scene or two in the middle, but very little. It’s been a few years since I watched it, but IIRC, Kim Basinger’s character has more screen time.

        And it really is a nice movie. My dad loves to quote a couple lines from it. I’m not a huge Redford fan, but I quite like it.

  2. She’s in the middle too, now that I think of it — I need to watch it again, clearly! When I was a little kid, I always said that if I was a figure skater, I’d skate to the triumphant music from the finale.

    • The character that I thought she was only appears in the middle of the book – I thought it was a little strange that this character had such a small part.

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