Monday, April 13, 2009

Lionel Shriver: Double Fault

Shriver is best known for her 2005 Orange Prize-winning novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I’ve yet to read. Double Fault analyses the marriage of two professional tennis players, from the day they meet to the day they split up. The difficult ending is inevitable and foreseeable, so I’m giving nothing away. Shriver’s skill lies in her handling of dialogue and her ability to show the twists and turns followed by the mind of a young woman critically lacking in self-confidence. This is a modern marriage, a “partnership” between equals, but problems arise when each partner is equally driven by an overwhelmingly competitive spirit.

At times this is an agonizing and frustrating read; what propels the reader on is wanting to know how and why, ultimately, the relationship ends. The “why” can be difficult to answer, but when we understand the female character’s reasons, we then understand how marriage is still based on the assumption that one partner, inevitably the male, will take the lead in the relationship. Can a marriage of equally successful and equally dominant personalities succeed? According to Shriver, no.

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