BQuinnterest's Reviews > The Tennis Partner

The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese
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's review
Mar 14, 2012

really liked it
Read in March, 2012

I picked up this book because I knew I’d be hearing the author read on March 7 at Narrative Night in SF.

The premise itself interests me: a memoir of a complicated friendship grounded by the game of tennis. The paperback in front of me is covered with sticky notes, inside and out, with things like: “landscape is another character throughout” and “all this seems like digression, but it sets scene for David’s abuse & drug theme” and notes about remembering Arthur Ashe and things like that.

I especially loved the details, the observations about tennis itself, the sounds, the swing, the way to do this or that, etc. The medical sections echo these details and were at least as fascinating, as were the explications on addiction, shooting up, etc. Overall, it's a beautiful weaving without being overwrought, of how we play games in life, find our stride, our place, our passions, for good and for ill

There were also things I questioned. For example, the Prologue, which is a sort of fictional “in the mind of” the addict we’re going to meet when he’s nailed and sent away. So many things about this feel wrong. A: It’s a kind of novelistic start to a memoir. B: Almost the entire book is then in backstory. I just didn’t like it and saw no point to it. Then there was a similar section mid-way-ish where suddenly we’re in the mind of a coach of some professional player – Bjorn Borg? – and it’s baffling what its point is or what it serves.

But, the vast majority of the book is beautifully written, with inspiring observations on the arts of sports and medicine, and the pain of otherness and addiction.

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