Sudden Death

Thoughts sdbyae by Álvaro Enrigue, Riverhead 2016, 264 pages

Translated from Spanish to English by Natasha Wimmer.

Audiobook published by Tantor Audio, narration by Robert Fass, 6 hours 57 minutes.

Challenge: TOB Short List
Genre: Historical Fiction / Tennis Lit
Type/Source: Hardback AND Audio / Library
 Why I read this now: Selected due to shortness of the audiobook, in hopes that I could finish in January to be my 12th book of the month.


WHAT’s it ABOUT: I’m going to copy and paste one of the goodreads blurbs.

A funny and mind-bending novel about the clash of empires and ideas in the sixteenth century, told over the course of one dazzling tennis match

A brutal tennis match in Rome.

Two formidable opponents: the wild Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and the loutish Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo.

Galileo, Saint Matthew and Mary Magdalene heckle from the sidelines.

In England, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII execute Anne Boleyn, and her executioner transforms her legendary locks into the most sought-after tennis balls of the time.

Across the ocean in Mexico, the last Aztec emperors play their own games, as Hernán Cortés and his Mayan translator and lover scheme and conquer, fight and fuck, not knowing that their domestic comedy will change the course of history.

Over the course of one dazzling tennis match – through assassinations and executions, carnal liaisons and papal dramas, artistic and religious revolutions, love and war – Sudden Death tells the grand adventure of the clash of empires and the dawn of the modern era.

WHAT’s GOOD: It really is fascinating. And has its funny moments.

What’s NOT so good: It’s also too difficult to keep track of in my current end-of-month scramble to finish a book (impatience) and the wrestling with reading books I feel “I have to” and not what “I want to” — which I realize is messed-up thinking so let’s throw in the current state of the world affairs, my own crazy messy life stuff, and realizing I have a book club book to read by next week.

Allow me to share a few thoughts from my reader friends:


FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m skimming the rest of this and do not think I will be missing anything (actually, as I miss EVERYTHING!) – in other words, I will be able to follow the upcoming TOB commentary and likely agree with everyone. If you are reading this, let me know if it has any pie.

RATING: Three slices of pie! I liked it, I’m just needing to move on. It does deserve more time and fuller attention than I care to give it at this time. I have my regrets and may I only mutter, someday…

Highly recommended for fans of lively history and TENNIS.



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9 thoughts on “Sudden Death

  1. “current state of the world affairs and my own crazy messy life stuff…”

    THIS is my mental state too – very agitated and can’t concentrate well on reading right now, much less blogging about it. I usually like straightforward (not experimental) narratives, especially when I’m stressed. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on it, though!

    1. I must have listened to over 30 minutes when I started wondering about plot? characters? Is this nonfiction? did I just zone out? And when I got the print book from the library, I was overwhelmed to try and pick up the pieces I missed. But I did think it was something special in the right conditions.

  2. I’m going to be curious to see the discussion in the TOB. Seems like a book people will either love or hate. I’m indifferent only because it’s a style I don’t often like. I bailed on the other play-in book I tried to read (Throwback Special). It was just boring. I don’t know which I’d choose of the two.

    1. I feel bad that I don’t have the energy or interest to really delve into it like it deserves. I did find the history and the tone very interesting.

  3. Personally I feel the game of tennis has gone dramatically downhill since the retirement of Pete Sampras, but since I understand this book’s tennis predates Pete Sampras’s retirement, it should be okay for me to read. :p

  4. Ugh – I don’t know how often I find myself in the same situation where I think if I didn’t have so much going on that I ended up feeling like I “have to” read a book and not having time for it all too often. How many great books might I be shortchanging?!

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