Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Review of Zugzwang by Ronan Bennett (Bloomsbury, 2007)
Zugzwang moves along at quick clip, the story laced with intrigue and twists. The historical context of St Petersburg in 1914, and its various conspiracies and revolutionary plots, forms a nice backdrop to the story without dominating the narrative. The characterisation is well realised, if a little clichéd at times, and whilst the writing is engaging and plot intricate, the tale felt a little over-contrived, with various, complex inter-relations between several characters and interweaving subplots. This is partly a result of Bennett seemingly trying to position every major character in a position of Zugzwang. One nice touch is the inclusion of a chess game (including a picture of the board, the positions of the pieces and the moves) between Spethmann and his friend, Kopelzon, that mirrors Spethmann’s movement through the plot. Overall, an enjoyable, if melodramatic, page-turner with an interesting backdrop.