Twelve Summers by Adam Zwar

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

Sport has a special place in the hearts and minds of many Australians. While some just enjoy watching their favourite sports heroes in action, others, like Adam Zwar, take it to a different level. Zwar recounts memorable moments from his life while tying them to the cricket season that played out in the background over the course of twelve summers. Interestingly, he rarely if ever attended a live cricket match during this period. Most of his memories of the various matches come through his prodigious watching of and listening to radio and televised proceedings.

What has been created is a well told memoir of Zwar’s life that spans from the 1980-81 Australian summer through to the 2006-07 Ashes tour in Australia. Not every cricket season in this period is mentioned, just the twelve most memorable ones that had significant elements such as the notorious underarm incident in the game against New Zealand in February 1981.

As well as a very detailed and well researched documentation of cricket of those points in time, Zwar’s personal story slowly unfolds from his time growing up in Cairns through his time in a Brisbane boarding school and on to the development of his professional life as a journalist and actor. Both stories run concurrently and are told in an entertaining way. As one of Australia’s funniest writers, Zwar takes the reader on a ride that satisfies both those who are interested in his life as well as those who will enjoy the detailed information about the major cricket matches that form the background or foreground of his story depending on what was happening at the time.

To say that Adam Zwar feels conflicted at various times along the way is an understatement. Not too many of his peers at school are as obsessed about cricket as he is. He wants to be an actor but ends up beginning his working life as a journalist. He would like to have a crack at comedy but ends up doing very well as a voice writer. As a result, he has led and continues to lead a very interesting life as an actor and writer. His various comedy series such as Wilfred and Mr. Black bear testament to his creative touch as part of a creative team.

Along the way cricket has always been there. His knowledge of the game and its various highs and lows makes me wonder why he hasn’t written more about it. He has though, as told in Twelve Summers, presented and produced cricket documentaries. Having seen Bodyline: The Ultimate Test when it was broadcast, I enjoyed picturing in my mind the sight of Adam Zwar waiting tentatively for Brett Lee to bowl one of his famous deliveries. The fact that he survived an over of Lee’s bowling in the practice nets without the usual protective gear showed his determination to be as authentic as possible to what had occurred during the 1932-33 Ashes tour of Australia.

Twelve Summers is a very readable book. It weaves both Zwar’s obvious love of cricket and the memorable moments of his life together in a way that keeps the reader interested and often wondering what would happen next. His enjoyment of the game looks like staying with him for the rest of his days.

Adam Zwar is an actor, writer and voice artist. He is the co-creator of the Australian comedy series Squinters, Lowdown and Wilfred, created the Channel 10 comedy series Mr. Black and the factual series Agony Aunts, Agony Uncles, The Agony of Life, The Agony of Modern Matters and Agony. He also presented and produced the cricket documentaries Underarm: The Ball That Changed Cricket and Bodyline: The Ultimate Test.

Twelve Summers

Adam Zwar


Hachette Australia

ISBN – 978 0 7336 4738 3

$32.99; 295pp

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