THE TENNIS PARTY by Madeleine Wickham


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A young English writer's debut assembles a nasty gang of upwardly mobile friends at a houseparty in the British countryside--and lets them at one another's throats over tennis and cocktails. Patrick Chance's tennis party is not about tennis: He needs to sell a pricey and questionable investment plan in order to reap a cushy bonus. So he and his wife, Caroline, have invited a likely buyer: their old pal Charles, who's come into money by marrying an heiress, the ultraspoiled Cressida. Also invited for the weekend are penniless Annie and Stephen, both salt-of-the-earth types, and neighbors Don and Valerie, a vulgar father-daughter duo who truly care about winning the tournament. Cressida finds Caroline trashy, and she hates the fact that the Chances are friends from Charles's bohemian youth. Patrick slimily tries to sell his lemon plan to Charles and is politely blown off; in a dither because he fears the loss of his bonus, he turns his salesman ways on trusting Stephen and convinces him to take a second mortgage out on his house to invest in the fund. Then Ella, the great love of Charles's youth, shows up uninvited, just back from a world tour. After a drunken dinner, she and Charles slither off to the garden. Later, puffed up by his adulterous conquest, Charles slips into his bedroom only to discover--via a letter--that his wife's finances are so shaky that they now face financial ruin. The finals of the tournament turn into a verbal melee as Stephen realizes he's been had by Patrick, and Cressida finds out about Charles's infidelity. Recriminations are exchanged all around before this houseparty from hell adjourns for the weekend. Despite its contrivances, this featherweight comedy delivers a decided satisfaction: pleasingly humiliating comeuppances for all its odious characters.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's