At 41, Scarlett Thomas was a successful novelist and a senior academic. She'd quit smoking, gotten healthier, settled down in a lovely house with a wonderful partner. She'd had all the therapy. Then her beloved dog died. Her parents started to get sick right around the time she realized she was never going to be a mother herself. For the first time in her life, maintaining her ideal weight had become nearly impossible. She was supposed to grow up, but she didn't know how. So instead she decided to regress, to go back to the thing she'd loved best as a child but had inexplicably abandoned: tennis.
Intensity marks Thomas's beautiful memoir, which is a meticulously detailed, often darkly funny account of her hot pursuit of a dream deferred ... The wins and losses...add up to a smart, clever and very suspenseful point-by-point re-enactment. Readers—especially the competitively inclined—will root for Thomas to go the distance and emerge a victor both on and off the court ... Thomas's body of writing consistently features sharp, likable and captivating heroines who often riff incisively on the perils and glories of contemporary living and modernity with sarcastic wit and self-deprecation. With Thomas serving as narrator for the multi-layered, no-holds-barred odyssey of her ascent into middle age, she emerges as a top seed and the very best of them all.
Readers should be prepared for pages detailing tennis matches—a basic understanding of the game and scoring is a prequisite—as well as irritation with Thomas in moments of bold self-absorption. At the same time, the author’s honesty is also what makes this memoir appealing, and Thomas’ insights into the world of amateur tennis are compelling. A capable memoir for those who love tennis and competition.
Her own coming-of-age story is written in the style of her novels, and the author’s characteristic acerbic wit shines through. The memoir will thus be a joy to Thomas’s fans but might be off-putting to those uninterested in her upper-middle-class lifestyle and her indulgence in jealousy, complaints, and criticism of self and others ... Thomas’s writing is darkly funny at times, and she brings readers along as she navigates the death of her beloved dog and caring for her aging parents ... Most readers will need to have a keen interest in playing tennis to appreciate this memoir’s focus but they might be rewarded with a meditation on the psychology behind a tennis obsession.