In this newly-released teen novel by U.P. Topka of Pretoria, we follow 15-year-old Eric Robertson on a hero’s journey, starting with the devastating death of his parents that sees him moving to the small town of Carnarvon to live with his grandmother. Reeling from the loss of his family and the life he left behind, Eric struggles to adapt to his new surroundings, an unhappy situation made worse by the cruel school bullies. While fleeing from the school after a traumatic encounter with them, Eric happens upon a magical set of golf clubs, each previously owned by a golfing great of the past, that possess the ability to talk to him. The clubs become Eric’s friends and mentors, and the game of golf becomes his refuge.
As with any hero’s journey, however, there will be obstacles to overcome, and what makes this teen novel unique is that these obstacles arise from within Eric himself. Suddenly thrust into the cutthroat world of competitive sport, Eric finds himself unprepared for the attention, temptations, and pressure of professional golfing. The clubs that once offered redemption become a source of conflict within Eric, as he grapples with his conscience regarding the fairness of the advantage they provide. The reader is absorbed by the trials and tribulations of the young hero and his cast of supporting characters, while being swept away into the world of golf and friendship that Topka has meticulously crafted.
The novel has a magical feel – and not just because of the magical elements of the story – but because of the nostalgic feel of the writing; the perfectly executed sense of place; and the clearly apparent respect for the great game of golf, which permeates from the page. In fact, The Magic Fifteen is as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a love letter to golf. The transformative power of the sport is subtly illustrated, as Eric grows stronger as his prowess on the course evolves. The dignity and discipline synonymous with the game are conveyed through the actions of the fictional players, and the magical clubs themselves often make mention of the everlasting nature of the game, giving a sense of immortality and significance to the sport. The scenery and settings, described with beautiful detail throughout the novel, whisk the reader on a journey from the arid, dusty golf courses of the Karoo to the pristine greens of the British Open.
This endearing novel is must-read for young golf fans, but it does offer something for everyone, exploring themes such as grief, young love, integrity, failure and redemption – challenges as timeless and universal as the great game itself.