cover image Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis

Suzanne: The Jazz Age Goddess of Tennis

Tom Humberstone. Avery Hill, $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-910395-69-1

“Quiet please” as Humberstone (Over the Line) serves up an entertaining homage to Suzanne Langlen, a once sensationalized but now little-known French tennis star and Olympian. Born in Paris in 1899, Suzanne begins her “lawn tennis” career at a young age when, in 1908, her father’s fascination with the sport inspires him to train his daughter to become the “greatest tennis player that ever lived,” a goal he pursues with a zeal that flaunts his daughter’s own desires and health. Coached by “The Sorcerer” Joseph Negro, Suzanne’s exhausting regimen includes ballet, horseback riding, and swimming. Though not as concerned with perfection as her parents, Suzanne develops a taste for fame and world travel during the Roaring ’20s, affecting a “carefree flapper act” as she racks up unprecedented success. Talent can only take Suzanne so far, however, and stress and alcohol abuse cause her health to rapidly deteriorate: “Even Goddesses need rest,” reminds her doubles partner. Fickle tabloids follow her exploits, and the narrative is similarly arranged like a highlights reel of key scenes. Humberstone’s clear but dramatic lines, bold colors, and choice period details evoke the era, though occasionally the characters feel stiff even when running for a ball. Sports history buffs, particularly those eager for more female leads, will appreciate this well-researched portrayal of one player’s devotion to the game. (Sept.)