In the fall of 1900, Dr. Gustav Uyterhoeven left the chess garden that he and his wife, Sonja, had created together in Dayton, Ohio, and journeyed to South Africa to serve as a doctor in the British concentration camps of the Boer War. Over the next ten months he sent twelve chess pieces and twelve letters back to Sonja. She set out her husband's gifts as they arrived and welcomed all the most faithful guests of the garden to come and hear what he had written - letters which told nothing of his experience of the camps but described an imagined land called the Antipodes, where all the game pieces that cluttered the sets and drawers of the garden collection came to life to guide the doctor through his fateful and wondrous last adventure. Brooks Hansen offers a tale of spiritual progress disguised in the most exotic visions of the imagination. And yet The Chess Garden encompasses a very real world, too. Alongside the doctor's visions of the Antipodes, the story of his life gradually unfolds as well. History and allegory are expertly woven until finally both lead back to the chess garden itself, a place where ideas give way to vision, reason meets faith, and fact and figment are finally reconciled.
Pages: 481 (Hardcover)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Source: Checked out a copy from each of the following libraries-- Natick, Alexandria, and Rockville
I began The Chess Garden or the Twilight Letters of Gustav Uyterhoeven by Brooks Hansen all the way back in May 2010; it was the second selection in the Natick book club I joined. While the member who selected the book was very enthusiastic and excited about the story, I had a very hard time getting into it. At our book club meeting in June, I loved her perspective so much that I was determined to finish the book. It took me almost a year to finish the book. I finally got into the story during my third attempt.
The process of reading the book also tested my commitment to the public libraries of MA, VA, and MD. All of the libraries have a two term renewal limit. I was super slow in reading, so I had a lot of pauses in my reading.
While I questioned my decision to finish the book several times, I am glad that I continued. In the end, I loved learning about the Doctor and his wife. His personal journey and the way he used to stories as a way to cope with the horrors he was witnessing in concentration camp. I liked the way the letters were a way for him to connect with his wife and also to continue the sense of community they had created in Ohio. I even cried a little towards the end of the book.
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
2011 Global Reading Challenge: Part of the book took place in South Africa, so I am counting it for the contintent of Africa.
Chunkster Reading Challenge 2011: The book is 481 pages which meets the requirement.