DOUBLE FAULT by Lionel Shriver


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 Fully using the strongest part of her game--psychological insight--Shriver (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.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48830-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997


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