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2.7 out of 5 stars
Double Fault
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2006
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Lionel Shriver seems to make a feature of difficult to like heroines. In this book, Willy (short for Wilhelmina) is an American tennis professional. She has a good coach and is set to make the rankings as the novel begins. Then she falls in love with Eric, a lovely man of good family who has taken up tennis in earnest and needs a lot of help. They get married, but Willy's whole existence is bound up in tennis and soon there is a conflict as Eric improves and zips through the rankings to become a real contender. As Eric's game improves, a bad fall on court seems to put an end to Willy's career.

It's hard to like Willy as a character since she is outrageously competitive, especially when it comes to her husband. There are a lot of extraneous scenes in this novel which do no more than point to Willy's lack of grace and Eric's reasonableness and astonishing good will and patience. Allied to this Lionel Shriver goes in for much rather tedious analysis. This book was actually written before her Orange prize winner We Have To Talk About Kevin and it shows. In Kevin Shriver had a contentious subject and a real dilemma to offer the reader. In Double Fault we have a conundrum mainly about the disparity between women and men in sport, manifested in Willy's extreme behaviour and her monstrously resentful attitude towards a successful husband. The ending is a real downer too. This book is nowhere near as interesting or as well constructed as Kevin and suffers in the comparison.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 20 November 2010
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2011
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 - competitiveness/jealousy in relationships, committment/motivation in life. As with Kevin, what you get from this book really depends on your own experiences as a reader and what persepctive you take....and as with Kevin, whether the protagonist is the engineer or victim of her own failed relationship is a tension which gripped me to the bitter end.
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on 26 January 2010
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'. It has similarities in style but I do not think it should be unfavorably compared as it was written much earlier in the authors career before her writing style had fully developed.

Tennis is the dominate theme in this novel based on a relationship between two ambitious tennis players.
The female protagonist is Wilhelmina Novinsky a professional tennis player whose life has been devoted to the game for as long as she can remember. Tennis has also been the only love in her life until she meets Eric Oberdorf a gifted player come late to the game but determined to make a success on the international tennis circuit. They marry and at first seem deeply in love but ambition and determination soon begin to affect the relationship as the competition between them causes tensions between them. Loyalty is well tested in this battle of the sexes on and off court.
What could have been a great relationship is ruined by the demands of both Willy and Eric who at times were both in my mind rather unpleasant characters.

Using tennis as the vehicle to write a relationship novel was for me a very interesting one, but somehow I doubt I would have enjoyed it quite so much if I was not a fan of tennis myself.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2006
As a lover of both 'Kevin' and tennis this book leapt off the Waterstone's shelf and screamed 'buy me'. Although it lacked the astounding impact and originality of Kevin it was still a compelling read and intruiging exploration of marriage, ambition, jealousy and shattered dreams.

Although it's obviously not simply a 'book about tennis', it was also an interesting look at what life might be like for a frustrated world No138 ranked player; struggles for recognition, obsessive self-criticism and a non-existent personal life. Does Shriver have any tennis history I wonder, or was this simply well researched?

It is clever how the author often makes her central characters dislikeable but yet holds your interest in them. Shriver has a lovely rich vocabulary and an incisive style. This lacked the dark humour which occasionally reared its head in Kevin. In fact it really wasn't a barrel of laughs at all, but I did race through it with many a knowing nod at Shriver's insights about relationships, sporting endeavour, ambition and defeat.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 4 October 2006
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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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 3 July 2006
Just as a selling point, 'Double Fault' is distinctly similar to the well-known '....Kevin'. Its protagonist, Willy, is equally unattractive and, like Eva, she is stubbornly determined, selfish and single-minded. But Shriver is brilliant at detailing those cause-and-effects behind those personalities and we are invited to understand, if not sympathise, with them.

Although 'Double Fault' is written in the third person, its narrative is largely sympathetic with Willy. It is as effective in detailing her thoughts and feelings as 'Kevin' was in detailing Eva's. On the other hand, however, we are lured into empathising with the unlucky hack who chose Willy for a wife. Eric antagonises Willy, only with his affable and selfless nature, whch serves really to exaggerate Willy's unattractiveness. This is precisely the reason why 'Double Fault' recieved rejections before finally being published - Willy is 'unattractive'. In fact, it preceeds 'Kevin', as it was released in 1997 whereas 'Kevin' was released in 2003. In fact, a further six books preceeded 'Double Fault', so it is not the make-or-break second novel for Shriver.

Anyway, rather than a review, I'd like to recommend this book. It reports on the human relationship in such as way that one might consider it satirical, for it focuses on the reality of domestic disharmony rather than the Hollywood version in which good sense almost always prevails. No, Shriver's characters never learn, do they? Hellbent on self-effacement and destruction, they're addictively interesting. Out of frustration, you may just want to tear your pages up!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2007
I have just finished reading Double Fault and have enjoyed every minute of it. I am shocked to see that many people rated this book poorly, as I found it to be a page turner and couldn't get enough of it. This may be because of my love for Tennis or because I could see a lot of myself in one of the main characters, Willy, which is rather scary!

The only disappointing remark I have is about the book's ending. It stops the story short and there is no conclusion. I would have wanted to know more about what happens to the two main characters in the end.

That said, I will found that Shriver writes her story beautifully and would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the game of tennis, but also interested to read about relationships between two very competitive people who are striving to make it to the top.
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