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Double Fault [Hardcover]

Lionel Shriver
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 14 1997
An ardent middle-ranked professional tennis player, Willy Novinsky meets her match in Eric Oberdorf, the handsome rogue she drubs in a pick-up game in Manhattan's Riverside Park. Eric is charmingly gracious in defeat, and his casual confidence takes her in. 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.



Conjugal life starts well on the Upper West Side of New York. 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 just as her husband becomes the upstart darling of the tennis circuit. Ultimately Eric plays in the U.S. 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.



Taut as match-point, Double Fault chronicles a marriage imploded by ambition. Just as Richard Yates exposed the dangers of traditional marriage in Revolutionary Road, Lionel Shriver reveals the hazards of a two career relationship. A brilliant novel about the price both men and women pay for prizing achievement over love.

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From Library Journal

A marriage wrecked on the shoals of ambition is the theme of Shriver's intriguing sixth novel (The Female of the Species, LJ 2/15/87). When 23-year-old Willy Novinsky meets and marries Eric Oberdorfer, she's a rising professional tennis star and he's a Princeton graduate who just plays for the love of the game. As Eric's tennis prowess increases and his ranking in the men's professional circuit rises, Willy suffers an injury and then a loss of confidence, both of which cause her rankings to plummet. Willy must decide whether her love for her husband is greater than her desire for a number-one ranking in women's tennis and how much she will sacrifice to achieve her goal. Shriver's challenge here is to convince the reader to empathize with Willy, despite her unattractive behavior and misguided choices. Shriver is a talented enough writer to win over some readers, but many will quickly lose patience with Willy and want to tell her to simply grow up and set her priorities straight. Recommended for public libraries.?Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Tennis is Willy Novinsky's one love. Ever since she picked up a racket at age four, she's been determined to become a star. But her family has been unsupportive, and Willy's fierce determination to play has left her with no friends and no other interests. Now 23, she's still only ranked 392 in the world and is reeling from the effects of a disastrous love affair with her longtime coach. Then Willy meets Eric Oberdorf, gangly, ambitious, attractive--and a promising tennis player. Attraction turns to love, and Eric and Willy marry. But the marriage has a calamitous effect on Willy's game. As her game goes bad, however, Eric's improves. When he overtakes Willy in the world rankings, the marriage slides from joyous to miserable. Shriver's novel provides an eye-opening and authentic look at the cutthroat world of pro tennis, but it's more than just a sports expose. It's the melancholy and tempestuous story of two people whose love couldn't survive their own selfishness. Emily Melton

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is one of the worst books I've read in a long time. Willy is one of the most unlikable characters I've run across and Eric comes off, alternately, as a wimp and a jerk. The other characters are not much better and I couldn't have cared less about any of them. I kept hoping the book would pick up at some point and so kept slogging through it. Big mistake. The only bigger mistake was spending 20 plus bucks on it in the first place. I would not recommend this book to anyone
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1.0 out of 5 stars Yuck June 8 2012
Format:Paperback
What a relief to finish this depressing book. By the end I despised Willy and wished she would have used that glass shard. Yuck, what a loser. No way would the husband ever have put up with this whiny woman.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing... April 8 2009
Format:Paperback
After reading We Need to Talk about Kevin in book club I searched out books by the same author. As an avid tennis player this looked ideal. It was full of technical tennis information which I imagine I was in the minority enjoying but the main problem was with the characters. Rarely have I read a book with less engaging protagonists. Both selfish, self-absorbed and immature - I kept waiting for the shift in personality that would redeem the story and it never came.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book March 4 2004
Format:Hardcover
An avid tennis player I am when I picked up a copy of "Double Fault" which clearly stated on the inside cover that it was a novel about an even harder sport- love and marriage. So begins the in depth, realistic love story/tennis story of two sometimes interesting, sometimes intelligent, sometimes spoiled characters Eric and Willy. I like this story highly because it seems very possible for such events to happen when you combine love and career into the same relationship. The ups and downs, the jealousies, the competitive drive of the heart to win or succeed, often overlooking the more important things in life.
It begins with how they meet and leaves you like all great novels do...a little bit hanging.
I'm sure Andre and Steffi have read this one!
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2.0 out of 5 stars bitter taste March 6 2002
Format:Hardcover
Boy, I thought this was a bitter work. I liked some of her reviews in the Inquirer so I picked this up. Writing was almost callow. The author tries to marry the tennis world with a relationship tale and does not quite get the ball in the court, instead serving up a plodding story where her anger is manifest in her writing. I was disappointed.
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Format:Hardcover
Admittedly, I checked this book out of the library b/c I really like to play tennis and I was curious about the book's use of the sport as metphor to explore (as the bkcover says)"marriage the ultimate sport." Only apparently, I wasn't fully prepared for the never-ending, morose, despiseable jealousies contained herein. I think Lionel Shriver is a talented writer, but that this book is abymally bitter, relentlessly bitter at every turn - to the point where I was ready to pitch the characters' marriage (&almost this book) long before the characters do. The main character, Willy Novinsky, is very unlikeable throughout (though I kept waiting in vain to find some redeeming quality), and I'm not sure she ultimately serves the rhetorical purpose of exploring the book's two-career marriage theme. Like being hammered over the head, the message here is suffocatingly clear. And though I might not agree with the author that modern marriage is inherently corrupt, I do believe no one in their right mind would want to spend another moment with these two. Like them, I found myself surely "beaten" by the end of this game's match.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A difficult but necessary book for the author to write
Lionel Shriver has confronted the demons from her own divorce several years before and written about her life with a power and a brave intimacy that is all too rare in modern... Read more
Published on Aug. 30 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anyone contemplating two career relationship
Ms. Shriver has again written a psychological drama and social commentary disguised as fiction. This book details the emotional life of two people both in fast-track careers of... Read more
Published on June 17 1998 by chwu@ucsd.edu
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written but depressing
The book is undoubtely well-crafted an written by a real "pro". The dialogue in particular was superb--almost too clever. Read more
Published on Sept. 27 1997 by P. Meltzer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights, terrific pace
This book has a lot of edge. It starts like an idyllic romance
and ends like film noir. The transition occurs gracefully -- through
powerful writing, a well-crafted... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 1997
5.0 out of 5 stars Searing book, gutsy author
A great book, and far bigger than its factual framework of
professional tennis. Essentially, Shriver wants to show
what can happen when a husband and wife are... Read more
Published on Aug. 26 1997
5.0 out of 5 stars An eloquent, unsparing, wry book on the two-career marriage
This beautifully written, razor-sharp novel explores near-virgin

territory for literary fiction: career rivalry in the modern

marriage. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 1997
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