A Terrible Splendor - Reviews

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The Washington Post, May 3, 2009. “Marshall Jon Fisher has gotten hold of some mighty themes: war and peace, love and death, sports and savagery. …As the match enters its final set, all the narrative pieces lock together, and A Terrible Splendor becomes as engrossing as the contest it portrays.”

The Boston Globe, April 26, 2009. “Fisher…offers richly detailed portraits as the story moves from one nail-biting set to the next against a backdrop of improbably high personal and political stakes.”

The Wall Street Journal, April 25, 2009. “Rich and rewarding…. Mr. Fisher brings a sharp eye for detail. He vividly sketches the anything-goes atmosphere of Weimar Berlin….”

The San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2009. “Enthralling…a gripping tale…. Wedding the nuances of a sport to broader historical events is a challenge, but Fisher pulls the task off with supreme finesse, at once revealing the triumph and tragedy of a remarkable tennis match.”

The New York Times Book Review, June 21, 2009. “Absorbing…puts readers at the edge of their seats…. [Fisher’s] nuanced portrait…shows how, with unflinching generosity, von Cramm stoically endured his tribulations.”

The New Yorker, July 20, 2009. “This thoroughly researched account uses the deciding 1937 Davis Cup match between Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm and the U.S.’s Don Budge to explore both the pre-topspin era of tennis and prewar international tension….”

Vanity Fair, May 2009 (“Hot Type” column): “For his smashing serve and spectacular rallies between sports history and political drama, game, set, and match go to Marshall Jon Fisher’s A Terrible Splendor.”

Newsweek (online), April 16, 2009. “The backstory of the match is even more compelling than the five-set drama that was played out on grass…. Fisher’s book provides a welcome reminder of how a great athlete, in dire circumstances, can rise to extraordinary levels—both in his game and in his life.”

The Financial Times (London) March 16, 2009. “A vivid account…a gripping read…lively and scrupulous.”

The Huffington Post, Nov. 29, 2009. “The best tennis book of the year is not Open by Andre Agassi. The winner, racquets down, is A Terrible Splendor. Intelligent and enthralling, it brings to vibrant life not only tennis in the early twentieth century but also the realities of politics and war in which tennis played its part.”

The Washington Times, June 9, 2009. “A fine book…solidly researched…. Marshall Jon Fisher has found a remarkable story and has told it well.”

The American Conservative, Sept. 1, 2009. “This brilliant book is about much more than tennis…. There is no shortage of riveting detail and suspense in this dazzling story.”

The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), June 21, 2009. “An engrossing account…. Fisher does a compelling job of making the reader feel the pressure Cramm must have been under…. A Terrible Splendor serves up a winner.”

The Star Tribune (Minneapolis and St. Paul), May 29, 2009. “A deeply researched, fascinating story…. Fisher writes that ‘Budge and Cramm turned journalists into poets.’ In the final scenes of this book, they had the same effect on him.”

Tennis Week, April 21, 2009. “…a transformative experience, meticulously researched and beautifully written…. A match for the ages is masterfully detailed by Fisher in a story that may well stay with you forever. The result is A Terrible Splendor, a book that ranks right up with Gordon Forbes’ A Handful of Summers and John McPhee’s Levels of The Game as one of the most memorable books about tennis — and more importantly, the human spirit — that you may ever read.”

Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco), Dec. 3, 2009. “Think Andre Agassi has an interesting story to tell about tennis? It’s minor compared to A Terrible Splendor…. This reads like a thriller, and the history of gay life in Berlin in the 1920s and early 30s is amazing.”

The Berkshire Eagle, May 24, 2009. “In A Terrible Splendor, author Marshall Jon Fisher taps into a geyser of universal themes…. Fisher hits on a nonfiction storyline that would make a screenwriter squeal.”

The Commercial Dispatch (Mississippi), May 24, 2009. “A Terrible Splendor is a thoroughly riveting account of intense human endeavor…[an] astonishing, inspiring story.”

St. Helena (CA) Star, March 11, 2010. “This story is not just for tennis aficionados. It’s got everything…. When made into the inevitable period piece this book could sweep the Academy Awards.”

FoxNews.com, March 8, 2010. “…a story told in fascinating detail by Marshall Jon Fisher in his remarkable book A Terrible Splendor.”

Radio Austria International, Sept. 29, 2009. “Ich spiele um mein Leben [title of German edition] is not only a book about a breathtaking tennis match, it is also just as enthralling in its own right.”

Berliner Morgenpost (Germany), July 24, 2009.  “Concise biographies, match reportage, cultural history. Fisher weaves all this together in his account. But Ich spiele um mein Leben [title of German edition] never loses its suspense.”

See the thirty Italian reviews of Terribile Splendore:  click here



Advance Praise

“Marshall Fisher has masterfully woven the story of Europe on the edge of war, a man pursued by the Gestapo, and America on the rise into the tale of the greatest tennis match of the century. A Terrible Splendor is tense, tragic, beautifully told, and immensely enjoyable.” —Atul Gawande, National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestseller author of Complications and Better

“A literary triumph … Fisher masterfully weaves biography, history, and sports—and sex and romance and the drums of war—into a thoroughly riveting narrative … full of ironic twists and astonishing revelations.” —Scott Stossel, Managing Editor, The Atlantic

“A Terrible Splendor is not only one of the best-ever books on tennis but is sure to be one of the best nonfiction books of the year. Marshall Jon Fisher delivers a smashing account of the game’s first international superstars as they compete against each other, the impending violence of Nazism, and their own inner demons. The experience is like watching Chariots of Fire—but this time in an arena of grass courts, white balls, and wooden racquets.”

—Robert Atwan, editor, The Best American Essays 2003

“For those of us who believe that tennis is a metaphor for life, here at last in this marvelous narrative is proof, served up on the rackets of Budge and Von Cramm. A Terrible Splendor is a wonderful account of a time of great historical drama, with the world on the brink of war, and everything resting, or so it would seem, on getting the ball back over the net just one more time.”—Abraham Verghese, author of The Tennis Partnerand Cutting for Stone 


“Marshall Fisher has turned a tennis court masterpiece — American Don Budge against German Gottfried von Cramm to decide the 1937 Davis Cup — into a literary masterpiece. Blending their lives with the darkening times, Fisher illuminates bygone cultures in the fascinating tale of a July afternoon in London.” —Bud Collins

“There could be no more disparate characters in any sport than Big Bill Tilden, Don Budge and Baron Gottfried von Cramm. Marshall Jon Fisher has done a marvelous job of weaving the threads of these three lives together at a time when the world was coming apart and at the moment when Budge and von Cramm were playing in the most important—if not the best—tennis match ever. This is sports history at its finest and most thorough.” —Frank Deford

“I’m grateful for my ignorance of tennis history, since if I’d known the outcome of the 1937 Davis Cup match before I read this engrossing book, I might not have sat on the edge of my seat and bitten my nails as Don Budge and Gottfried von Cramm served and volleyed. Marshall Jon Fisher captured two memorable characters, illuminated their historical and cultural milieus, and kept me in delicious suspense.” —Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.

“You’ve seen the claim before—‘the greatest game ever played!’—about contests on the gridiron, the diamond, the links. Now forget those other claimants and pick up Marshall Jon Fisher’s account of the 1937 tennis battle between the American Don Budge and the German baron Gottfried Von Cramm. The setting may be Wimbledon, but the match is played out against a dark backdrop of impending war, with occasional flashes of Hollywood glitz. Fisher tells the story with dramatic flair and acute sensitivity to the players and their personal lives.You’ll be casting the movie before you’re done.”—Cullen Murphy, editor-at-large, Vanity Fair

“With graceful prose, a flair for detail, and a novelist’s eye for character, Marshall Fisher lures us into this unexpectedly layered tale of the greatest tennis match ever played. More than just a seat on the sidelines, A Terrible Splendor offers a compelling, page-turning portrait of a man literally playing for his life. Never in the sport of tennis have the stakes been so high.” —Lars Anderson, staff writer for Sports Illustrated, author of Carlisle vs. the Army and The All Americans

“Through the prism of one of the greatest tennis matches ever played, Marshall Jon Fisher throws open a window on the terrifying world of the thirties in Europe; illuminating in vivid detail the persecution of Baron Gottfried von Cramm; the pitiful kow-towing to Hitler by the tennis authorities and, rising above it all, the innate sportsmanship of the two friends and rivals, von Cramm and Donald Budge. Between every Budge backhand and von Cramm volley, history rears up in all its ‘terrible splendor.’” —Richard J. Evans, author of The Davis Cup: Celebrating One Hundred Years of International Tennis and The coming of the Third Reich

“Richly detailed and meticulously researched ... It’s taken almost 75 years for a sufficiently gifted writer to recreate the magnificence of that event, but it’s been worth every moment of the wait.” —Peter Bodo, senior editor, Tennis magazine