May 17, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Tennis Party

Current Status
In Season
Madeleine Wickham
We gave it a B

Though a ”tennis party” weekend at a glamorous English country house is the setting for this amusing first novel by British writer Madeleine Wickham, the real games turn out to be more the stuff of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? than of Wimbledon. The central characters — three young married couples — take turns at the net, literally and otherwise: a salesman whose heartless moneymaking instinct worries his loud, fun-loving wife; a struggling Ph.D. candidate who hides a violent envy of his friends’ wealth from his supportive spouse; and a social climber who has almost convinced himself that he didn’t marry a blue-blooded ice queen for her money. As underhanded deals and secret trysts raise the stakes, and the characters ever more expertly lob about their greed, lust, and pride, Wickham’s breezy comedic touch keeps The Tennis Party at a fast-paced, enjoyable, if undemanding, volley. B

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