Fan of The Queen’s Gambit? Then you won’t want to miss my November Book Club selection, “The Last Checkmate,” by Gabriella Saab!
I loved the Netflix series, even though I know little about the game. Just as I thoroughly enjoyed this month’s pick, another spellbinding piece of historical fiction set during WWII.
A young Polish resistance worker, Maria Florkowska, is a political prisoner at Auschwitz who plays chess in exchange for her life.
After being captured by the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied Poland, Maria and her family are sentenced to death…but when a cruel concentration camp deputy realizes her ability to play chess, she is spared. He intends to use Maria as an opponent to entertain the camp guards, with the intention of eliminating her when he tires of exploiting her chess skills.
She endures her 4-year imprisonment by strategizing not only her chess moves, but also by making her captor a playing piece in her larger game of survival, healing, and revenge. As the war nears its end, she challenges her nemesis to one final game, certain to end in life or death, in failure or justice.
“When Ebner returned to stand across from me, he held a whip in one hand and a club in the other. He placed both on the table. One reminded me of my last Gestapo interrogation, the other of my flogging, but I wasn’t afraid of either, because I remembered this this stage of his interrogations. He wasn’t going to torture me, because I was already cooperating. He just wanted to terrorize me.
We’d reached the most critical moment of our game. We’d made our opening moves and had established control of the board, strategizing and planning. Now we attacked.”