Tennis Lessons is a coming of age story. A young woman recounts short clips from her childhood through to her adult life. There are no filters on this, no rose tinted recollections or awkward parts removed, but the story is told in such an endearing style that you somehow need to be a witness to this. The main character is brutally honest about the most intimate parts of growing up. It is written in the second person, with an unnamed character, and I found this made the book more personal.
I loved her interactions with a lifelong friend. Whenever things got too serious, a silly comment, a shared joke, or just a simple play on words would lighten the mood. This felt very welcome, and made an otherwise quite awkward character much more relatable and real.
There are many areas explored that make the reader feel uncomfortable; bullying as a child, a funeral, periods, sexual encounters and drunken episodes. These are all so honest and raw that it is hard not to relate to them. Susannah Dickey writes about all of these with a sharp wit and careful approach. The most delicate of subjects with a sexual encounter is starkly void of any humour, taking a darker turn in an otherwise light hearted look at growing up. She does not dwell here, but gives enough to represent the truth of some young women’s experiences that are often not discussed amongst friends. This darker secret brings an undercurrent of sadness to the rest of the book whilst she takes a more rocky route on to adult life.
I wanted the unnamed main character, with an awkward and very normal childhood, to find something to empower her in adult life. Then I realised that was something that would equally disappoint me for not being realistic. As the story ends some readers will always be left wishing for an alternative. I found the conclusion to be like walking away from an old friend, ready to hear more when we next bump into each other. As if the next instalment is yet to come from Susannah Dickey perhaps? I would love to read about how the next 10 years turned out.
You can preorder the book here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/tennis-lessons/susannah-dickey/9780857526861