Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Double Fault - Lionel Shriver

Synopsis - A cautionary tale of passion and rivalry.  This is also a love story set in the high-pressure world of professional tennis.  Willy Novinsky is a promising young tennis player and is picked to train with Max Upchurch a former pro.  She meets Eric Oberdorf who watches her practise, he persists in distracting her until she invites him onto the court.  She is ranked in the top 500 while he is ranked in the 900's.  Inevitable they fall in love and marry. 

Review - I read Shriver's previous novel We Need to Talk About Kevin which although a difficult read due to its subject matter, was extremely well written.  I have to say that Double Fault is equally of such a high standard.  This is a much more comfortable story although it still challenges the reader to draw their own conclusions and observations.  The leads are poles apart in upbringing.  Willy comes from a Jewish family, her father an english teacher and failed author.  Her mother trained as a dancer but gave it up for family and works in a nursing home.  Willy has an average sister, the household is shown as brown in decor and in their clothing.  Eric is one of four boys, his father a doctor who both dotes on and wants the best for his eldest son.  Eric is confident and self assured without being cocky, he is very single minded.  Unlike Willy he does not love tennis, he wants to win because whatever he does, it is to be the best.  Willy loves tennis more than anything else and it is this that comes between their marriage.  Once married Eric's game takes off and runs up the rankings ladder in 200 leaps, whereas Willy struggles to jump 30 places at a time.  Inevitably he outranks her and as he continues upwards, Willy's game starts to decline.  Willy cannot cope with her husband's success and this has a destructive and disastrous effect on their marriage.  I can empathise with Willy to an extent.  After all she was used to beating her opponents but once Eric beat her she realised that she could not win them all, even though she was playing against a man.  Her confidence was knocked and her self belief goes down.  Yes, Eric is single minded but a very understanding husband.  Perhaps his kindness and forgiveness made her fall into even further decline, after all you can kill with kindness.  If you didn't like 'Kevin', don't be put off reading another by this author.  This one is worth it. 4*

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