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Book Review: Carrie Soto is back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

During the summer, while in bed with bloody Covid, I finally got around to reading Malibu Rising and really enjoyed it.

Now in that book, there was one character that I quite liked, despite having limited reason to…..

On the surface she wasn’t overly likeable, she’s quite spikey, she gets a bad press (unfairly), she doesn’t shower herself in glory when she has a screaming fit on Nina Riva’s drive (though I thought her points were entirely valid).

Christ, she isn’t even a major character in Malibu Rising, it’s nothing more than a fleeting introduction.

And still, despite all that, I liked Carrie Soto.

So, I couldn’t wait to read all about Carrie in her own story; Carrie Soto is back.

From the back….

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. 

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 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.

I loved this book.

Firstly, I’d say don’t be put off by thinking that a story about sport isn’t for you.

Yes, there’s a lot of tennis to be played during Carrie Soto’s surprise comeback, but this isn’t a story about sport.

If you’ve read any of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s (TJR from here on in) other books, you’ll know she writes about strong, flawed, female characters; I think Carrie Soto is her best yet.

Carrie’s number one goal through her life has to become the greatest tennis player of all time. To get there, she’s sacrificed everything, friendships, relationships, any kind of life away from the court.

I’m no tennis expert, but I found the games in this book easy to follow and exhilarating. It takes real skill to be able to describe every twist and turn of a tennis game in a way which doesn’t become repetitive, jargon filled and boring. I can honestly say there were times I felt anxious reading about the games.

Carrie’s known as “the battle axe”, she is ruthless in how she deals with her opponents, she’s ice cold and isolates herself from the other women on the tour. Carrie even goes as far as to sack her father Javier as her coach to get to where she wants to be.

Javier is back training her for her comeback – the bond between them is wonderful.

I loved Carrie; she’s clearly a victim of sexism and ageism, she rubs people up the wrong way because she’s not afraid to say she wants to be the best. People involved in the game treat her comeback as joke, she’s 37 and apparently well past it.

She is confident in her abilities, she knows she’s worked hard to get to where she is, she’s a bitch, she’s ambitious and arrogant; that’s not how she’s supposed to behave as a woman. I for one applaud her arrogance. It hasn’t won her legions of fans; people don’t like her. It’s a double standard she recognises and one she thrives under.

“We live in a world where exceptional women have to sit around waiting for mediocre men.” TJR

“Why do I have to be nice when most of the men aren’t?” TJR

Underneath her tough exterior, Carrie’s lonely and, faced with losing her record, wondering who she is if she’s no longer the best player in the world.

Carrie has never learnt to lose well. She pins her entire identity on being the best, not having that title, terrifies her. It doesn’t matter what her father or Bowe tell her, she can’t see past that title.

And ultimately this is what Carrie Soto is back is all about. It’s about Carrie recognising that goals change, life has a different meaning as we get older. She learns it’s okay to be vulnerable around the people that matter, the people that care. She learns who to trust – having been burnt in the past.

Importantly, Carrie learns that it is okay to fail. At the end of the day, titles and records don’t mean that much; she has already been the greatest, she doesn’t have to prove that anyone with her comeback season; I loved seeing her come to this realisation.

Carrie Soto is back is my favourite TJR book so far. The characters were wonderful – especially Javier, Carrie’s doting and eternally proud dad. I was with her during every training session and every game, willing her to win and achieve her goal. 

It’s a fantastic, compelling read that puts an older, formidable, (at times) unlikable woman at the centre of it and that’s really refreshing.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Carrie Soto is back by Taylor Jenkins Reid Leave a comment

  1. I’m so happy you ended up loving this book so much! I adore Carrie and, despite not being familiar at all with tennis rules, found myself so engrossed into the games, as well. Such a great read!
    Lovely review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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