I am at a loss as to how many 5 star reviews this book has. I can only imagine that it’s from people who never read fiction but play a lot of chess and are over-extending their enthusiasm for the game by proclaiming any book that mentions a chess game as a masterpiece of writing — regardless.
One can only imagine all the anorak and fingerless-glove wearing train-spotters who read books about people on trains and give them 5 star reviews just because there’s a train in the book: Thomas the Tank Engine has so much to answer for.
All i can say is that i managed to finish it, but it isn’t anything to get excited about in any way: unless you have wet dreams about chess games.
The suggested drug abuse and dependency never actually materialises. Sure, Beth has her moments of alcohol exploration as most teenagers do, she even tries a bit of pot at a party — OMFG — and sometimes she even takes a tranquilliser or two to get to sleep; but i’d hardly call any of it drug abuse as she only manages to lose one game of chess, ever, due to having a bit too much wine and then never drinks again for the rest of the book. It’s like the gender/sex discrimination it reportedly deals with: i would imagine that most women would gladly be the first in the queue to have a few grumpy old men being annoyed at being beaten at chess by them instead of the real gender/sex discrimination real girls and women have to deal with every day.
And — shock and horror for middle class suburbia — there’s even the suggestion that Beth may be a lesbian, or at least bi-curious. Oh the wildness, call the morality police before it all gets too far out of control!!!
To put it all mildly, it’s all very nicely portrayed and sanitised for the middle class, chess playing people of it’s day. Even the children’s home is positively idyllic compared to what a real one is like — and yes, i was in a children’s home.
I really don’t think this book has aged well at all.
All in all, a disappointment, but if you like listening to chess matches on Radio 4 and don’t like anything too risqué then it may just get you a little tingly where it matters.