Fresh and urgent. These are words not always associated with books about the holocaust or the game of chess.
John Donoghue has done something remarkable with his debut novel, The Death's Head Chess Club. Heís written a uniquely personal, intricate, and powerful story of a Nazi officer and a French Jew linked together through chess and within the confines of Auschwitz.
Donoghue is a 58-year-old pharmaceutical consultant. Prior to this fiction debut, his published works include a few dozen articles in British medical journals. This novel isnít good for a pharmaceutical consultant; it is just plain good.
The two main characters are complex, their world morally fraught and emotional. Where the use of chess as a metaphor could have been a crutch, Donoghue does not overdo it or push it to the point of maudlin. He weaves the game in beautifully.
This isnít a story for historians or chess masters. Itís an intimate, intricate, powerful story of friendship.