Meet Willy (Wilhemena) Novinsky and Eric Oberdorf, and if I'm not mistaken, it could be argued, that just possibly, in many but not all respects, remotely perhaps, that in Double Fault Lionel Shriver is offering us the Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes of the tennis world?
has lived and breathed tennis since the age of 5, scratching and
clawing her way to a ranking in the top 300 against all the odds; Eric,
big hitter (it's started), lobs high never fails, flicks up a racquet
with his foot at the age of 18 and is a natural. The US Open beckons
fast. On the surface (clay) he is laid back and easy going in stark
contrast to Willie's ambition driven life.
It would seem to be the perfect match (here we go) but tennis is about all that these two have in common. You watch as Willie's back handed net volleys evolve into cross court play and finally retreat to an all out destructive baseline slugging match (sorry) in the relationship from hell. Riddled with envy and jealousy she can hardly bear to witness Eric's meteoric rise let alone gather any joy from it. intrinsically incapable of loving anyone deeply it would seem, least of all herself.
Let's pause for some light relief...
Please don't call the RSPCA, it's not my dog.
Keeping the ball in play like a troublesome ball boy is Willy's ex tennis pro coach, Max, who plays a keen game off the court destined to keep Willie snipping relentlessly at Eric's strings (see yesterday). With the snap of her cruciate ligaments comes the final set of the game.
Much like a game that ends with a double fault after a lengthy tie break and despite suspending expectations, I was left with a tiny sense of anti climax as I turned the last page of this book.
Anyone who remotely enjoys Wimbledon will love it and there is a great idea for a coffee table in here.
Written and first published in 1997 it would seem Shriver's publishers are trawling her backlist for another Kevin now that she has an audience. I'm more interested in the sort of book she might write now that Kevin is famous
We can only hope this is not a full blown case of Picoult Syndrome, the books are good but does Jodie Picoult really write a book a month?