Updated: Apr 5, 2021
by Mark W. Sasse
It’s love at first sight for railroad magnate, Raymond Blythe when he encounters Rochelle Christy in the Carnegie Library at Pittsburgh in 1920 whilst trying to research a baseball game. As luck would have it, Rochelle is as baseball-mad as Raymond and using his not inconsiderable fortune, Raymond builds her a stadium, a league and a team in his home town of Winasook to commemorate their love of each other and baseball.
I will confess that I know nothing about baseball (I’m English) and A Diamond For Her is steeped in baseball lore, knowledge and mechanics; it is a veritable homage to the sport. My lack of interest did not massively detract from my enjoyment of the novel. Although I suspect if you like baseball, you may well award A Diamond For Her a solid five stars.
Personally, I found the book charming, very well-written and faultlessly edited. Mr Sasse employs a number of techniques to good effect in the telling of his story which it’s obvious he is passionate about and his enthusiasm is quite infectious. The majority is told in third person but at the beginning and end, the narrative is told in first-person through the perspective of Charles ‘Shoeshine’ Henry in what reads as a non-fiction account of the Winasook Iron Horses complete with footnotes concerning ‘interviews’ with the Blythes. It’s deceptively clever and well-structured; you do feel as though you are reading a historical account of the league.
Throughout, the prose has a jaunty feel with a touch of comedy. The 1920s and further periods are nicely and convincingly realised. We also have the side-angle of the ‘Baseball Gods’ who inspire Raymond and I really enjoyed the dreams he has of the mythical giants playing baseball; I could have read more of those. As the sub-title implies, aside from the myths, we are given tales of not only the games played by the Winasook Iron Horses at Rochelle Stadium but the various associated characters. I really liked the tale of Pike and his pole and pitcher, Markel Sasso, (whose name I think may be a nod to Author’s!). All the characters are well-defined with humorous, quirky touches. Bess and John Christy were standouts for me and the twist with Bess was quite unexpected. I did find the Blythes, especially Rochelle, a little smug but this is tempered later in the novel by the arrival of Rosy who briefly adds a touch of conflict and misunderstanding.
An endearing, light-hearted and original novel that is wholly accessible even if you do not have a keen interest in baseball. Highly recommended.