STARRED REVIEW
May 2016

A Scottish sprinter’s inspiring saga

By Duncan Hamilton
Review by
Scottish sprinter Eric Liddell’s life was really just beginning when he won a gold medal in the 400 meters at the 1924 Summer Olympics after missing out on the 100-meter event by famously refusing to race on Sunday in accordance with his Christian beliefs.
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Maybe they made the wrong movie.

Or, at least, perhaps there should have been a sequel to Chariots of Fire, the 1981 historical drama that became an international hit and won four Academy Awards. That’s because, as British author Duncan Hamilton writes in For the Glory, Scottish sprinter Eric Liddell’s life was really just beginning when he won a gold medal in the 400 meters at the 1924 Summer Olympics after missing out on the 100-meter event by famously refusing to race on Sunday in accordance with his Christian beliefs.

As Hamilton depicts in this vivid and heartfelt narrative, Liddell went on to make a far more lasting mark in life than his athletic triumphs. A year after his Olympic glory in Paris, he began serving as a teacher and missionary in a remote region of China, where he was born the son of missionary parents. It was a difficult life in an environment already hostile to outsiders, and it became progressively more difficult as war clouds threatened. Ultimately, Liddell and other Westerners were sent to a Japanese work camp, where he died at age 43 from a brain tumor in 1945.

Hamilton’s passion for his subject shows through on every page as he recounts life in the camp, where Liddell worked tirelessly, gave up his meager rations and counseled despondent fellow internees. He also could be cajoled into the occasional footrace, never being beaten until near the end of his life.

Through it all, Liddell held to his beliefs and inspired countless others to follow in his footsteps. Hamilton makes it clear: His race became theirs, and the human race was the better for it.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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For the Glory

For the Glory

By Duncan Hamilton
Penguin Press
ISBN 9781594206207

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