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Double Fault (Five Star Paperback) [Paperback]

Lionel Shriver
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 May 2007 Five Star Paperback

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 soon gives 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 fall. 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; Reprint edition (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852424907
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852424909
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 463,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and A Perfectly Good Family. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London.

Product Description


Shriver confronts some disconcerting truths that defy a pat, politically correct resolution (New York Times)

A brilliant tale of doomed love (Observer)

A tale of thwarted ambition, rivalry and resentment (Eve)

Shriver has a terrible gift for laying bare for us the emotions that lie just beneath the skin. I doubt that there is any thoughtful woman who does not recognize herself somewhere in Shriver's writing (Financial Times)

A terrific approach shot with which she sets things up for the deadly putaway volley that is Kevin. (Independent)

This book is about the small and large ways we hurt each other in the greatest competition on the face of the earth: Love. Buy it. It belongs on that shelf of books you will return to again and again. (Harry Crews)

A smart, perceptive novel about romance and the rivalry on the tennis court (Sainsbury's Magazine)

Shriver's explanation of Willy's character is so fearless that, although readers may not sympathise with her, they'll understand why she's driven to destroy what she loves (Metro)

Book Description

What price do you pay for prizing success over love? --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A non-story excellently written 19 Nov 2006
By K Soze
It is inevitable that any examination of Double Fault will take place within the context of the Kevin phenomenon. If you're considering reading this book, it's likely to be because of your love of Kevin. Your appreciation of Double Fault is likely to depend on what it was you loved about Kevin.

Double Fault is a realistic, detailed and thought-provoking analysis of the deterioration of a marriage in the same way that Kevin depicted the deterioration of the mother-son relationship. Nobody writes dysfunction like Shriver.

Both novels are written from the point of view of flawed anti-heroines, with which all but the most saintly of us can identify to some extent. If you like respectable protagonists, full of honour and virtue, neither book is for you.

Double Fault examines the extent to which eventualities are pre-destined by circumstance, just as Kevin did.

Double Fault is written with exactly the same flair, entertaining imagery and vibrant characterisation.

The difference between the two novels lies in plot. Double Fault has very little. It is simply an examination of a relationship and the emotional journey taken by a character. Don't wait for a twist or a jaw-dropping finale. If therein lies your love of Kevin, avoid Double Fault.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't compare it to Kevin! 28 Aug 2007
'Double Fault' is the sort of novel I would only consider reading after having read the blistering 'We Need to Talk About Kevin', and although it lacks the later novel's grippingly current premise, 'Double Fault' is still a damn good read. I think this may be overall testament to Shriver's accomplished talent as a fine writer of sophistocated fiction that cleverly osillates between high end literature, popular culture and just a sprinkling of 'chick lit'. All the right components are distilled in 'Double Fault' to make it distinctively Shriver's work: the relationship that starts off passionately fresh, and then deteriorates into bitter competition and spiteful revenge, the female protagonist's ambivalence towards motherhood and the succinct observations that border on the profound through the fact that they are actually quite mundane. Take for example Willy's difficult tennis match marred by the onset of her menstruation that causes a hormonal bout of diarrhoea. The imagery is horrible but somehow very true to life, a bit like Shriver's writing sometimes.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Willie is a 27 year old mid-ranked US tennis player with a passion for the game, huge ambition and a future in front of her. This book tells, in parallel, the story of her marriage to Eric who starts off ranked well below her but ends up in the US Open, and Willie's own decline. It's a kind of A Star is Born in reverse, with the gender roles inverted, and is, I think, as much about our reactions to unbridled female ambition as it is about the characters. Little insertions of Hillary Clinton in the background extend this consideration of women's roles, as back-office supporters for a man or as players in their own right, and the pressures this might create in their/our own psyches as well as the impact it might have on our personal lives.

This isn't as riveting as Kevin, and there are points at which I found myself skimming the narrative. But Shriver is an acutely intelligent writer, uncompromising and sharp, and she excels at creating female characters who refuse to be good girls and play nicely.

There are not many female authors who tackle feminist politics head on but Shriver is one of them. She doesn't shy away from allowing her female protagonists to express anger, even violence, and is excellent at creating characters who are multi-dimensional, both likeable and deeply unpleasant at the same time, but always recognisable and realistic. This is, in lots of ways, an intensely sad book, with an ending that is almost tragic. But if you've ever considered whether it's really possible for a woman to have it all - the top-ranked career, the man, and the baby - then this is a must-read.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By M. Harrison VINE VOICE
I loved Kevin - well, insofar as I was shocked, terrified and mesmerised by it. But I could hardly believe that this was by the same author. For one thing it's laboured and horribly overwritten: metaphors stretched to breaking point, prose devices that do nothing but call attention to themselves and trite, flabby descriptive passages.
For another thing, it breaks the first rule of novel writing: show, don't tell. This does nothing but tell all the way through, relentlessly, the narratorial voice forever in your ear, never letting you discover anything for yourself, let alone become immersed in the story.
What's more, don't let anyone tell you it's 'not really' about tennis: it bloody well is, there are matches in there described serve-for-serve. If, like me, you don't know one end of a racket from the other (and don't care either), these sections are dull, dull, dull.
And finally, there's the creeping suspicion that Shriver, a shining light both for intelligent women's writing and also for the growing debate on motherhood, may turn out to be a one-trick pony: her protagonist, Willy, is an ambitious, driven woman[...]Sound familiar? She's even got a man's name, just like Lionel. With so much in common with both the author's own life, and last book, the tennis action seems to be the only thing in this book she's had to reach for - and it was to me the least interesting part of it.
While in the later parts of the book Shriver still displays an amazingly acute eye for the subtle daily bartering that goes on in most relationships, as well as an uncanny ability to pinpoint the moment the fulcrum of power shifts between two people, sadly it's too little, too late.
If, as seems likely, this examination of the paralysing fear of failure reflects Shriver's own fears in following up a phenomenon like Kevin, one can only hope she's written those worries out now, ready for a return to form with the next book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars really good!!
Very interesting and a really good read. Really enjoyed insight into competitive marriages. Would recommend to anyone. Would like to know what happened next
Published 1 month ago by J C.
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
After Kevin and so much for all of that and a perfectly good family this was a disappointing, almost boring book. I struggled to finish it.
Published 11 months ago by BJL
4.0 out of 5 stars We need to talk about tennis
From the author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, this is a book with similar themes on relationships but with a completely different set up. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Sport Nut
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the bad reviews- FANTASTIC novel
Admittedly you have to commit to this novel - but please, a novel "about tennis" this is not! The passages focussing on tennis are really about the other themes of the book -... Read more
Published on 30 Sep 2011 by GH
1.0 out of 5 stars Life is too short, read something else instead!
This book contains no humour, no plot and takes itself way too seriosly.
Only read if you like over written, wordy, dull novels
with characters you don't like or care... Read more
Published on 19 Feb 2011 by Lex
1.0 out of 5 stars Massive faults
I've given up on this book - only read as far as I did because it was all I had with me on the train. I like tennis but this was just too much. Read more
Published on 9 Dec 2010 by Bettylou
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't care about the characters...
Unfortunately this a very boring book! I loved We Need to Talk about Kevin, but that seemed to be just a fluke! Read more
Published on 11 Oct 2010 by miss_spookiness
2.0 out of 5 stars A practice novel
Where We Need to Talk About Kevin was intriguing and occasionally terrifying, Double Fault was pettier and less grave, though the main characters were equally flawed. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2010 by Mr. S. D. Halliday
3.0 out of 5 stars Tennis and Marriage
Although this novel was first published in the USA in 1997, it was only published in the UK in 2006 after the success of `We Need To Talk About Kevin'. Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2010 by LindyLouMac
3.0 out of 5 stars The woman can't write a bad sentence, at least
Lionel Shriver seems to make a feature of difficult to like heroines. In this book, Willy (short for Wilhelmina) is an American tennis professional. Read more
Published on 10 Sep 2009 by Eileen Shaw
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