The Goddess and the American Girl: The Story of Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills

Larry Engelmann, Author Oxford University Press, USA $24.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-19-504363-1
Between the two world wars, women's tennis changed radically: from a genteel, almost delicate, game it became much more akin to the sport as played by men. The two women most responsible for this revolution were the French player Suzanne Lenglen and the American Helen Wills, whose stories are combined in this ambitious study. By far the more interesting of the two was the complex Gaul, high-strung, with only a thin veneer of self-confidence, a contestant heavily dependent on the approval of her domineering father. In contrast, Wills enjoyed the sport precisely because it was a game and found it great fun. The single clash between the two, on the Riviera in 1926, was noteworthy, and Engelmann makes it highly dramatic. The book, however, is so overlong that it is apt to put off all but the most ardent tennis buffs. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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