There’s something sweetly sentimental in all the testosterone lurking not far beneath the covers of The Eleventh Man (Harcourt), a football novel that melds into World War II from Ivan Doig (This House of Sky, The Whistling Season). That would seem a contradiction in terms -- sweet sentiment. Masses of testosterone -- but somehow it’s not. Somehow it works in a book that manages to be epic in scope and fact.
The war licked its chops over the battle of Leyte Gulf, as it came to be called, with the inevitability from day one that history would speak of such a gang-fight of fleets in the same breath with the Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, Jutland, and Midway. Ben all but moved into the wire room at East Base to follow reports of the military struggle shaping up around the Philippine Islands. It proved to be like reading War and Peace standing up.Ben Reinking is the 11th man, left behind to chronicle the exploits of his former football teammates as they make their way through various theaters of war. An exciting book with all the right stuff. The Eleventh Man might well be the very best thing Doig -- an acclaimed and respected author -- has done to date. I loved every word.