Book review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Saturday, July 9, 2022 Permalink

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the first book I’ve read by the popular American author. I’d heard A LOT about Daisy Jones and the Six. I didn’t get a copy for review and haven’t bought it, though not sure why given I’ve only heard consistently good things about it.

And if it’s anything like Carrie Soto is Back, then I’m sure I’ll be hooked as I was with this upcoming release. I adored everything about this book and the things I didn’t adore I realise I wasn’t supposed to. My frustrations were with Carrie and they were lessons Carrie herself needed to learn and we got to tag along for the journey.

Book review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins ReidCarrie Soto Is Back
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Hutchinson Heinemann
on 30/08/2022
Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction
ISBN: 1529152135
Pages: 368

By the time Carrie retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Slam titles. And if you ask her, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father as her coach.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning, British player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked the 'Battle-Axe' anyway. Even if her body doesn't move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

Carrie Sotto is Back is a book about tennis. I’m not sure how tennis-haters will feel about it. TJR does give a quick lesson early on as young Carrie is learning about the game and its scoring. People who know me now might know I pay NO attention to sport. But it hasn’t always been the case. So… I actually know quite a bit about tennis, though my knowledge of the current game does wane somewhere in the mid 1990s.

Anyhoo, that’s a long way of saying that this book brought about MANY memories. I could also relate as my father like Carrie’s was an athlete and though he never coached my brother or I, he was very involved… at least in my brother’s sporting career.

We meet Carrie first when Nicki Chan beats her world record for number of Grand Slam titles. It’d be easy to find Carrie unlikeable, as she’s so obviously obsessed with reclaiming her record, rather than on actually wanting to return to the sport she loved.

Once she issues the challenge we’re taken back to Carrie’s childhood and TJR whips through the 60s to late 80s as Carrie moves from child prodigy to world champion, retiring in her early 30s. We learn A LOT about Carrie and her father during this time. Most of it is spent with Carrie in her early years. Learning to play. Her father’s adamancy that she was going to become ‘the greatest’ and had something special. It’s interesting though – as we’ve met her as a retired champion – that despite his lessons about playing her best being more important than losing – that the Carrie we meet in the present is ALL about winning. About regaining that world record. Or rather, being the best.

I struggled with this obsession initially. “HAS SHE NOT LEARNED ANYTHING?” I wanted to shout. But of course… that is the point of this entire book. Carrie has and she hasn’t. She has more yet to learn.

Carrie herself is prickly. She sees her opponents as only that. Not colleagues or contemporaries. She’s not liked. Not then. Not now. And she doesn’t care. Mostly. Things change though and the person who she’s supposed to hate most may well be the first person to make an attempt to crack her veneer. She’s viewed as a bit of a bitch and – if we weren’t in her head – she’d seem that way to us also. Instead, we’re privy to her feelings, self-doubt and bravado.

TJR’s writing is effortless. It doesn’t get in the way at all. I know I rave at times about phrasing and being blown away by prose, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t require skill to take the focus away from the words and allow them to merely be vehicles for transporting readers into the story itself, where the characters become real people and you forget they’re only there because someone clever and talented created them for us.

Tennis dominates here, however TJR manages to summarise them in ways that the scenes involving practice or matches are not belaboured.

And she certainly wrings out our emotions as this book draws to a close. By now Carrie has become a friend. Someone we know intimately and I better understood her and her father. As the end nears we realise TJR has only a couple of options for a closing. And… as it happens she wraps it up beautifully.

I became completely caught up in this book and Carrie’s world. I really must read Daisy Jones and the Six, given its accolades and the fact that TJR managed to make me feel like I’ve just lived the past few years with Carrie and had a first row (players’ box) seat to her life.

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid will be published in Australia by Penguin Random House (Hutchinson Heinemann) in August 2022.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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