The Tennis Party

Madeleine Wickham, Author
Madeleine Wickham, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14053-3
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-552-99639-6
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4464-3603-5
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Both the author and reader win this game of literary tennis, a comedy of manners in which British first-novelist Wickham aces the shallow rich, displaying a wicked backhand along the way. At their country estate, Patrick Chance and his wife host a weekend tennis party of six (two couples, plus a widower and his daughter) that ""comes to an unseemly end."" Serving as a catalyst for the debacle, the unprincipled Patrick tries unsuccessfully to peddle a financial fund to the superwealthy Charles Mobyn, then cons Stephen Fairweather, a floundering doctoral student, into mortgaging his home to make the same investment. While the couples' children amuse themselves with pony rides and rehearsals for a play, the adults suffer a series of personal revelations and crises. These stem not only from Charles's self-serving schemes but from the unexpected arrival of Charles's ex-lover, Ella Harte, to whom Charles is still attracted, as well as from an unexpected financial threat. In this light, fast-paced novel, where the plot is sure, if occasionally predictable, and the characters are superficial, because that is their nature, Wickham deftly shows at every turn that matters may not be as they seem, but that one truth can be relied upon: money corrupts. (Apr.)
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