A story about a chess-loving pyromaniac may not have you immediately running to the bookshop but, believe me, you don’t want to knock it until you try it.
The Greenbecker Gambit by Ben Graff
‘I only feel truly alive when the chess clock is ticking and the patterns on the squares in front of me are dancing in my head. Very little else gives me the same feeling. Nothing else, that does not involve a flame.’
Tennessee Greenbecker is bravely optimistic as he sets out to claim what he sees as rightfully his – the title of world chess champion. But who is he really? Is he destined to be remembered as chess champion or fire-starter? Either way, might this finally be his moment?
Tennessee Greenbecker is a character that will stay with me for a long time. I haven’t felt this emotional and empathetic toward a character since Eleanor Oliphant. They are actually quite similar characters despite the very different plotlines of their books. Both have fragile mental health but can also be rather annoying. Although Tennessee tops Eleanor in this second point. His selfishness and self-importance can be very frustrating but his flaws somehow make him more loveable.
I can’t deny that there isn’t a certain amount of chess talk in The Greenbacker Gambit but, if you are not a fan of the game, it shouldn’t put you off. This story goes far beyond the realm of chess and is actually a very beautiful book. I would sum it up as one person’s struggle to make sense of the life they are living. That is reflected in how the author presents the story.
The Greenbacker Gambit is roughly set over the course of a week and, in this short space of time, provides so much depth. This is due to the fact that it is told entirely through the eyes of Tennessee. He is an unreliable narrator who only considers his side of things, told through his ramblings, with tidbits of information unleashed at a time. I loved it!
I was really torn between speeding through The Greenbecker Gambit and slowing right down to absorb every word. Ultimately, I ended up reading a mix of the two. It doesn’t matter anyway how I consumed the book, it isn’t leaving my mind for a very long time.
The Greenbecker Gambit is available to purchase now.
I was sent a copy of this. book in exchange for an honest review.