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3.6 out of 5 stars
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on June 8, 2012
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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on April 8, 2009
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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on March 4, 2004
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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on March 6, 2002
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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on November 24, 1998
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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on August 30, 1998
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 fiction these days. I am not aware of the details of her divorce, but suspect that her husband was more interested in a help mate than an equal partner, and that when it became clear that she was not about to give fulfilling his needs priority over her career the relationship imploded. This was devastating to Ms. Shriver, who has finally taken the vital step of facing and vanquishing her demons in Double Fault. She changed many outward facts but it seems clear that the psychological structure she develops, crystallizes and shatters in Double Fault must bear close resemblance to her own experience, as the final fifty pages deliver a tone and depth of language that must be genuine. We shall see more honest, stalwart, hard hitting fiction from Ms. Shriver in the future as she continues to grow and gain confidence in her considerable literary talent.
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on June 17, 1998
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 pro-tennis. Willy and Eric both exhibit the destructive and self-destructive behaviors of people who have made "Being the best" their top priority and the author uses this as the vehicle to expose the myth of "winners" and "losers" as well as exploring the tangled emotions that make up a close relationship between two people. She makes the connection that "winner" is sometimes only slightly separated from "loser" with a twist of self-confidence and luck. The bevy of characters are all very human and recognizable, twisting in their emotional quagmires, going through life the best they know how, as the rest of us do.
This is not an "easy" book to get through and it certainly is not fluffy reading but it is very well written and the insights are true gems telling of the human condition. This is not a book I could get through in one sitting, it took several months to slowly take in, one piece at a time. As with Ms. Shriver's other books the plot is almost incidental and relatively transparent, again describing "real life". It is more the way that she exposes and describes the very human interactions and emotions of the characters that take center stage. A well written book definitely worth reading.
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on September 26, 1997
The book is undoubtely well-crafted an written by a real "pro". The dialogue in particular was superb--almost too clever. However, while the NYT talks about what a "less ambitious" author might have done with the ending, I must be in the category of the "less ambitious reader" because the uplifting ending is exactly what I was hoping for. There was so much sadness and heartache in the book, that I was hoping for some relief from the unrelenting tension by book's end. Granted, perhaps the author is to be credited for her unstinting devotion to realism as opposed to a trite Hollywood ending, but it sure made for depressing reading.
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on August 27, 1997
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 plot, and characters who act as
ugly (i.e., as human) as real people do. The guileless myth of the
trouble-free two-career marriage takes a beating, but it's about
time. Shriver's choice of pro tennis as the arena for the couple's
professional rivalry leavens the story considerably, but also makes
the pain Shriver articulates more vivid by contrast. While the
author's outlook may be grim, the story is constructive because it
offers a clear lesson. On the page, the tennis action is exciting
and deftly conveyed, so the book reads easily. All in all, a very
successful union of literary novel and psychodrama. I highly recommend this book.
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on August 25, 1997
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 uncompromsingly
ambitious, which occurs more and more as women take on careers.
She succeeds brilliantly, but in the process has to depict men
and women behaving very badly indeed. It's not her fault; that's
real life. Readers who like tradtionally redemptive and redeemable
characters and happy resolutions, though, had better open their
minds before tackling DOUBLE FAULT. It's worth the effort. (The
reader from Fox River Grove might as well stick to Harlequin romances,
it seems.)

The sadness of Shriver's book is completely earned, and
it will make a sophisticated reader think hard about how to manage
life as someone else's partner. The book is written in the traditional,
realistic voice, and with impressive literary virtuosity. The
subject-matter, as mentioned, pushes the envelope. What you wind up
with is a formally disciplined, stylish novel with social guts.
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