The Death’s Head Chess Club by John Donoghue

This was an unusual read for me, as it seems to be a book published without the usual garnering of review quotes. All the endorsements on the edition given to me were from websites like It was a present, chosen at random.

It is a well-paced, quite engrossing story about a Jewish master chess player and how he survives Auschwitz, the story told from the perspective of his later life. Some of the writing is a bit cliched eg ‘his face contorted with pain’; and some of the story it quite hard to believe eg former prisoners and former SS officers meeting and becoming friends quite easily. For readers looking for emotional depth, it is a bit superficial.

I get the impression the work is a labour of love, as much as an attempt to write a bestseller.

Overall, a decent diversion on a train, but I wouldn’t seek it out.


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