What does a father owe a son and a son a father? How can a marriage survive adultery? Is pacifism feasible? Is fame any good? How much does winning matter? How do you shake a Soviet agent who's trying to ruin you and your family?
Before Gregory Wilkin finishes dealing with such questions, something unusual happens in his venturesome first novel, The Rabbit's Suffering Changes. It turns from biographical fiction, a kind of homage to Evelyn Waugh (Wilkin gives him a bit part), into something like gonzo journalism (a seeming homage to David Foster Wallace), both halves combining to tell the largely unknown true story of Bunny Austin, the last British man-until Murray in 2012-to play in the finals of Wimbledon. Bunny's plunge into obscurity in the late thirties, after reaching worldwide fame and marrying a famous actress, was something he chose himself, giving up his tennis career-just when he was finally the favorite to win Wimbledon-to work for an obscure interfaith NGO called Moral Re-Armament. Wilkin's novel brings the reader this experience of conversion, reaching out for a new level of honesty, for that's what Bunny did and that's what he hoped for from his loved ones, with dramatically mixed results.