Synopsis from Waterstone’s
‘Love me, love my game’, says twenty-three year-old Willy Novinsky. Ever since she picked up a racquet at the age of four, tennis has been Willy’s one love, until the day she meets Eric Oberdorf. She’s a middle-ranked professional tennis player and he’s a Princeton graduate who took up playing tennis at the age of eighteen. Low-ranked but untested, Eric, too, aims to make his mark on the international tennis circuit. Willy beholds compatibility spiced with friendly rivalry, and discovers her first passion outside a tennis court. They marry. Married life starts well, but animated shop talk and blissful love-making soon give way to full-tilt competition over who can rise to the top first. Driven and gifted, Willy maintains the lead until she severs her knee ligaments in a devastating spill. As Willy recuperates, her ranking plummets whilst her husband’s climbs, until he is eventually playing in the US Open. Anguished at falling short of her lifelong dream and resentful of her husband’s success, Willy slides irresistibly toward the first quiet tragedy of her young life.
Having read Lionel Shriver before I was already used to her style so was able to get into this novel quickly. The story is about an intense relationship between two tennis players described in minute detail. I found myself taking the male side more and more as the female character becomes loathsome as her career disintegrates around her. She blames her husband and takes it out on him becoming physically abusive in the end. Meanwhile he becomes very successful but his wife is unable to support him. It is a story of marriage destruction and a very sad one. No happy ending here! Would appeal to tennis lovers.