Broken Play by Nicholas Sheppard
This original and well-written literary debut is an exploration of New Zealand culture and masculinity. Alec Haudepin is a gifted rugby player who has spent years working towards his life-long dream of playing for the All Blacks. But at the same time his star is on the rise in his rugby career, he is grappling with his sexuality in his private life. When a young stranger, with secrets of his own, moves into his apartment building, he is forced to explore his repressed feelings. But he doesn’t want to give up on his dream of being an All Black, and he is conflicted as he wants to be accepted by the rugby community, but he is not sure they will be happy with him being true to himself.
Broken Play is a story of a young man wrestling with his identity in the rigid world of professional sports, where men are applauded for being blokey and athletically masculine, but there might not be much scope for moving outside that dynamic. It’s a story of love, loss and living.
The author cleverly uses the conceit of its main character, Alec, to explore modern New Zealand from many different angles, and Nicholas Sheppard examines what it is to be a man in New Zealand.
Broken Play is a fictional work of identity and longing, and the author does an admirable job of creating a believable main protagonist, despite the conflicts in his life. It certainly captures the dedication and sacrifice that are needed to be a professional sportsperson in New Zealand, while also exploring wider dynamics.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
RSVP Publishing, $34.99