Today (30 August 2022) Carrie Soto is Back is published – one of the best books of this year! As well as Carrie Soto being back, in my view Taylor Jenkins Reid is also very definitely back! After absolutely loving Daisy Jones & The Six (which has recently been adapted for TV by Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I have to be honest and say I was pretty disappointed with Jenkins Reid’s last novel, Malibu Rising (it just didn’t work for me). So I did approach Carrie Soto is Back with some trepidation, especially as the character Carrie Soto briefly appears in Malibu Rising. Yet I had no need to be worried – this new novel is thrilling and addictive! It may even be Jenkins Reid’s best novel yet…
If you are a tennis fan and love the thrill of watching a competitive tennis match, you are sure to love Carrie Soto is Back. Mind you, even if you are not that interested in tennis, I am sure you will still love this book as it is an intoxicating story about drive, determination and the cost of winning.
It is also a touching and poignant exploration of the relationship between a father and a daughter.
From the first page of this novel, we the reader are confronted with the almighty force of Carrie’s drive to be the best. It is the final of the 1994 US Open; Carrie, at the age of 37 has been retired from tennis for six years. When she retired she was the best tennis player the world had ever seen, winning 20 Grand Slam titles and shattering every tennis record going. That record still stands. Yet as Carrie sits in the stands alongside her father who was also her coach, she is about to witness her record snatched away from her by the younger dazzling player, Nikki Chan. Carrie cannot let that happen, so there and then, decides to come out of retirement, determined to win back her record.
And so, even though her body is older, slower and the media which never admired her ruthlessness, negatively calling her The Battle Axe believe she can’t hack it, Carrie attempts to make a comeback. Believe me, this is a powerful, riveting read. Whole chapters are made up of one tennis match and I swear, reading these chapters I felt as though I was watching the match on the TV, screaming, cheering and shouting at the TV as I watched (something I have been known to do whilst watching tennis matches). My heart was often in my throat reading this novel, and not just during the tennis matches, as I strived for Carrie to succeed.
Carrie is a complex character. She is flawed, ruthless, arrogant, ambitious and definitely a bitch; she has no friends on the tennis circle and is not popular with the sports media. And if you have read Malibu Rising, you will already know that Carrie is a husband stealer. On the surface, Carrie is not the type of woman I would want as a friend. Yet she has a vulnerability that although she strives with all her might to keep hidden, we as the reader are privy to. She is also frightened, insecure and desperate to be loved. I really like and admire Carrie. Yes she is pig headed and ruthless, but she is also defiant and extremely brave. Especially when she refuses to succumb to the toxic masculinity that tries to bring her down. Carrie Soto is definitely a true literary heroine.
Carrie Soto is Back is such a unique, fresh and exhilarating read. I really felt on a visceral level Carrie’s wins and defeats, both professional and personal. This is a book that I loved straight away and will continue to love. I just hope that Reese Witherspoon chooses to adapt Carrie’s story to the screen too. Just like the book, that will be thrilling to watch.
Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone and NetGalley for my advance copy in return for my honest review.