Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: 'The Queen of Katwe' by Tim Crothers

✰✰✰½ In the Ugandan slum of Katwe lives a young woman named Phiona Mutesi. With little food and no education, Phiona was destined for a life of poverty. Many expected her to become a teenaged mother like her sister and mother before her. However, Phiona wasn’t like other girls, she was born with pluck and determination that set her apart.

From the first day she followed her brother to Robert Katende’s chess program, Phiona was determined to find happiness. Day after day, she attended the chess program against her mother's wishes at first. Maybe it was for the free bowl of porridge, but Phiona continued her chess training and as the days and months passed, it became evident that Phiona had a gift. She was a chess prodigy. This is the inspirational true story of Phiona’s quest to become a Grandmaster.

The Bottom Line: Phiona’s story is really just beginning. This short biography of Phiona's childhood struggles also includes the stories of others influential in shaping her future. Additionally, information about Uganda and its history are included. Crothers did not sugarcoat anything. This book will not teach you how to play chess or improve your game, but this story of survival just may inspire readers to try their best. Recommended for readers of biographies and those interested in chess.

Book Club Notes: Although this was a quick read, the group did not exactly find it enjoyable. Ratings ranged from a low of 1 to a high of 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. This averaged out to a group rating of 3. Several participants commented that the writing style was choppy. It was almost as if the book was pieced together from many articles. Others commented that the writing style did not capture the heart of Phiona. However, it is important to note that Crothers is a sports writer, which may have contributed to the writing style.

Also, book club members were interested in more information about Robert Katende. That being said, there is interest in watching the upcoming movie and keeping track of Phiona’s life. Due to the lukewarm reaction from the group, this book is recommended for groups interested in chess and sports. Discussion questions are available at Simon & Schuster.

Details: The Queen of Katwe: One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion by Tim Crothers. Paperback published by Scribner in 2012. 240 p. ISBN: 978-1-4516-5782-1

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