“Shriver’s novel provides an eye-opening and authentic look at the cutthroat world of pro tennis, but it’s more than just a sports expose. It’s the melancholy and tempestuous story of two people whose love couldn’t survive their own selfishness.”
“Shriver explores the obsessive side of Willy’s character and confronts some disconcerting truths that defy a pat, politically correct resolution….Shriver shows in a masterstroke why character is fate and how sport reveals it.”
New York Times Book Review
“Lionel Shriver has something new….Whether you go for tennis or not, the furious back-and-forth of the game in Double Fault can hypnotize you….Shriver brings an insider’s knowledge and a truly athletic prose to her descriptions of what happens on the court.”
“A brilliant tale of doomed love….This is not a novel about tennis or rivalry; it’s about love, marriage and the balance of power in relationships….Double Fault is a compelling and playfully ironic take on the sex wars, blistering with…brilliant writing and caustic language.”
“I can only hope that with Double Fault Lionel Shriver recieves the acclaim she has so long deserved...It belongs on that shelf of books you will return to again and again.”
“Double Fault combines the urgency of a page-turner with the satisfactions of fine style... powerful, provocative, and unrelenting.”
Novelist Shriver offers this aptly named romance about two aspiring tennis pros who fall in love and marry only to come to blows on the court and subsequently at home. The narration by soap-opera actress Renée Raudman brings an air of theatricality to the occasionally stiff prose. Under her command, the story becomes an old-fashioned romance replete with one-dimensional characters (who actually become quite likable through Raudman's well-crafted tone) and overwrought scenarios that only serve to make listening all the more enjoyable. Fans of the genre will be giddy with delight, but those looking for a serious love story may be disappointed. A Harper Perennial hardcover. (May)
An unabashed messagelove and ambition don't mixflashes repeatedly between the lines of this earnest narrative about two tennis pros who must choose between their marriage and the game. In her sixth novel, Shriver (The Female of the Species) has imagined a credible marriage crisis: when Wilhelmina (Willy) Novinski and Eric Oberdorf meet, Willy already has standing in the ranks of pro tennis, and Eric, fresh out of Princeton, is scrambling to organize his ascent. Together and apart, they hit the circuit, gathering ranking points in a competitive, erotic struggle that infuses their marriage with rising tension. Their roles reverse: Willy grudgingly acknowledges Eric's skill, then struggles to beat him and ends up humiliated as he masters her own game and uses it against her. Eventually, Willy succumbs to the fear of failure that ensures the failure she fears. Shriver stacks the deck against Willy, whose defeatist family and embittered coach have filled her with mean-spirited insecurities, so that her final sacrifice for Eric (equally cocky but more individualized and just plain nicer) is also, unfortunately, her only really instinctive, unprogrammed gesture in the book. In a lengthy letter included with the galley, Shriver explains that she wrote this novel as a cautionary tale about the fatal mix of love and ambition. By substituting simple "truths" for complex, dynamic characters, this didactic novel fulfills her purpose all too well. (Aug.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A marriage wrecked on the shoals of ambition is the theme of Shriver's intriguing sixth novel (The Female of the Species, LJ 2/15/87). When 23-year-old Willy Novinsky meets and marries Eric Oberdorfer, she's a rising professional tennis star and he's a Princeton graduate who just plays for the love of the game. As Eric's tennis prowess increases and his ranking in the men's professional circuit rises, Willy suffers an injury and then a loss of confidence, both of which cause her rankings to plummet. Willy must decide whether her love for her husband is greater than her desire for a number-one ranking in women's tennis and how much she will sacrifice to achieve her goal. Shriver's challenge here is to convince the reader to empathize with Willy, despite her unattractive behavior and misguided choices. Shriver is a talented enough writer to win over some readers, but many will quickly lose patience with Willy and want to tell her to simply grow up and set her priorities straight. Recommended for public libraries.Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Fully using the strongest part of her gamepsychological insightShriver (The Bleeding Heart, 1990, etc.) tracks the fleeting joy and prolonged despair of a young couple, both rising tennis stars, who find their love imperiled by one another's fierce urge to win.
"Love me, love my game," says petite, 23-year-old Willy to lanky Eric on their second meeting, after a first encounter in Manhattan's Riverside Park in which Willy cleaned his clock. She's played since she was five and is ranked in the 400's; he's played less than four years, having discovered tennis at 18, but he already has a ranking himself. The pair's mutual attraction turns to romance, and they marry within the year, knowing that being on tour will offer few chances for them to be together. Willy is prepared to suffer Eric's envy as she advances, but she isn't ready for him to season his game as quickly as he does. On their first anniversary, he wins against her for the first time; six months later, they play in a showcase tournament for new talent and he wins his match while she chokes at match point in a humiliating loss. Not long after, in a funk over her mental state, Willy seriously injures her knee. Even when she resumes playing, she's unable to turn things around, while Eric, with a few lucky breaks but also inspired play, moves to the international circuit and continues to win. He's unable to do well in Willy's eyes, however, no matter how hard he tries, and the marriage quickly goes from rocky to ruinous. Willy discovers that she's pregnant just as Eric is preparing to play in the US Open; her announcement of what should have been happy news creates a new crisis, which proves to be the last straw.
A persistently melodramatic tone doesn't disguise the tragedy in this moving, resonant tale of two sparkling careers and two decent people unable to live in harmony.