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THE DIVINE MISS MARBLE by Robert Weintraub


A Life of Tennis, Fame, and Mystery

by Robert Weintraub

Pub Date: July 14th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5247-4536-3
Publisher: Dutton

The first full-length biography of a multitalented and mysterious athlete.

Tennis champion. Fashion designer. Singer. Writer. Teacher. Motivational speaker. Celebrity. Alice Marble (1913-1990), writes Weintraub, was all of these and more. Yet for a woman of such prominence, her life remains shrouded in mystery. Born in a small California town to modest circumstances, she moved with her family to San Francisco as a child. It was there that her athleticism blossomed, first in baseball—as a teenager, she was the mascot for the San Francisco Seals—and then in tennis. Guided by her coach and mentor Eleanor Tennant, she won five singles titles and 13 doubles titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals during her amateur tennis career. Marble also hobnobbed with celebrities such as Clark Gable, advocated for black tennis player Althea Gibson, and contributed to the Wonder Woman comic book. As for her personal life, she wrote of her marriage to a man who was killed in action during World War II and also asserted that she spied on a former lover in Geneva during the closing days of the conflict. Yet for all his prodigious research, Weintraub is unable to verify either of these stories. This poses a problem for readers, as does the author’s occasional verbosity—e.g., why not use “typewriter” instead of “keys of an Underwood”? Nonetheless, Weintraub more than compensates for such minor flaws. He skillfully provides the historical and social contexts for Marble’s life, and his sketches of her contemporaries, particularly Tennant, are enlightening. The author also deftly sprinkles his narrative with charming anecdotes, such as the story of Marble’s brief (and frustrating) tenure as tennis instructor for future astronaut Sally Ride.

“You only live once, and that woman lived,” Rita Mae Brown once said. Weintraub ably conveys this sentiment.