I read this book because I immensely enjoyed two of Lionel Shriver’s other books — The Post-Birthday World and We Need to Talk About Kevin. Usually when I find a book that I like, I immediately try to find other books by the author and read them. Although I enjoyed this book, I didn’t find it as intriguing or involving as her others. (And, yes, the author is a woman — I just assumed it was a man when I began The Post-Birthday World and kept thinking “This guy can really write from a woman’s point of view” but then later found out it was a woman!) Anyway, I’m not saying this is a bad book by any means…just that I didn’t love it as much as the two others I have read.
This book is about a marriage and tennis. The protagonist is a semi-professional tennis player named Willy Novinsky. Willy has lived and breathed tennis since she was a young girl and has centered her whole life on being a successful professional tennis player. When she meets Eric Oberdorf during an impromptu tennis game at Riverside Park, she is intrigued by his natural talent and his good looks. He is intrigued by her. Because she’s never made room in her life for romance, it seems like a match made in heaven to find a man who admires her tennis game and shares her interest in tennis. Eric begins pursuing tennis as a profession as his natural talent begins to blossom. They fall in love and marry. And things are good…until Eric’s career begins to eclipse Willy’s career…
At its heart, the book is about Willy’s struggle to come to terms with her life … as a wife, as a tennis player, and as a woman. I loved that she wasn’t a “typical” woman that you often find in books. She is a competitive woman who wants to win. Who values tennis more than anything in the world — possibly even her husband. Her struggle to come to terms with these issues is very interesting but painful to watch. As someone who has never been very passionate about a career, I struggled to watch Willy deal with her loss of identity as her tennis career begins to falter. Willy isn’t a completely sympathetic character, and I often found myself struggling to like her. But at the end, I found myself wanting to know what the future held for her.
Although this wasn’t my favorite book of Lionel Shriver’s, it was a good read. If you are particularly fond of tennis, you might find even more to love about this book.