I really love this book;it has everything.There are four different stories all woven together,and you get caught up in all of them.
Mr Turner finds out he is dying,and wants to know before he goes what happened to the people he was in hospital with during the war.Cue a very good flashback to 1943 which explains why they were all there, including one of my favourite bits about the black man,Dave Lesurier,who is sent with his colleagues to a small village called Trenarth,just outside Penzance.The locals take to the "coloured"people because they are so polite and helpful,but when white soldiers are stationed there as well,trouble ensues as you can imagine,given the state of racial prejudice in the States at that time. The oldest inhabitant of the village is asked what he thinks of the American soldiers,and he says,"I like them very well,oh,very well indeed.I don't like these white ones that are coming in now,though.I hope they don't send us no more o' them."
Dave plays draughts,or chequers,with Mr Turner,which gives us the title of this book and also refers to the chequered careers of the patient after they leave hospital.Because of the non-PC language,this book may appear at first glance to be racist,but it is actually using the words of the time to show us how people could overcome their prejudices,and how colour does not have to be a barrier.In fact, the white folk in this wonderful story often turn out to be not half as nice as the"coloureds"and two (very happy)mixed marriages occur.I think this must have been a ground-breaking book when it came out, and I always feel better for reading it,which I do quite often.I can't think of many books I have enjoyed more.
on 29 May 2001
I have read The Chequer Board a number of times and it is one of those books I feel hard to put down.
By modern standards it is both racist and sexist, but in the context of its day in immediate post-war England.
The book commences with Mr Turner seeing a consultant because of giddy spells. The reasons are traced back to an injury sustained in a plane crash whilst Turner is being brought back to the UK to be court marshalled. The prognosis on his condition is poor and he has little time to live. Turner decides to spend his remaining life searching for three other patients he shared his hospital ward with.
One of the patients is the pilot of the plane. The last time Turner saw him he was having difficulty with a feckless wife. Another patient is a young squaddie awaiting court marshall for murder. The third patient is a black american soldier who is recovering from a botched suicide attempt and is facing the prospect of a court marshall for rape.
Shute with masterly form weaves his plot. He shows the weaker side of mankind but as in other books he shows that goodness is far stronger.
We are led on a journey to Burma and also into Cornwall. During the journey we see the relics of the British Empire and an insight into Buddism. Because of the time this book was written we are also shown the post-war austerity of Britain and the social class structure within the country.
This is a quaint old-fashioned book. It is a good read and whilst it probably is not politically correct for todays standard it is worth reading and enjoying nevertheless.
on 19 December 2011
This is probably the closest Shute came to writing a genuinely great novel. The keen awareness of human nature evidenced in his earlier work is here brought to full focus in a detailed study of four lives entwined in adversity. There is no real adventure here, Shute relies more on our interest in what happens to the characters to sustain his mastery of tension and pace. Without giving too much away, this is an uplifting tale of how we can overcome all sorts of adversity by facing up to things, doing what is right, and seeing the best in others in spite of appearances. In effect, it is a little morality play which, although the attitudes may seem dated, reveals a route to redemption and hope that will never age. I found the case study of racism utterly fascinating. Shute's treatment of the issue must have seemed very disturbing at the time, it was certainly very brave in a front-rank popular author. Younger readers may wonder what the fuss is about; so let me explain that the attitudes Shute describes were certainly common for 30 years after the book was published, and to an extent are still held by many people. In that sense, also, this book has lost none of its relevance.
on 22 March 2001
A bit different then the ordinary Shute story, this book follows the stories of a group of men who were briefly imprisioned together. When one of them discovers he is dying he searches out the others to find out how their lives continued. The results are often unexpected and very entertaining. Shute is a master, and this well written book proves it.
on 7 November 2005
Incredibly, this great story has been almost ignored. It is really the four separate stories of servicemen brought together in wartime in an inauspicious circumstance. Their stories are told post war by John Turner, himself dying slowly from an old wartime wound.
The men's stories all illustrate a different aspect of human nature, both in themselves and those around them. The most important story within this framework, however, is that of the young black American soldier-engineer, David Lesurier.
Sent to Cornwall to build an airbase, Lesurier is happily surprised to find the white working class local folk to be helpful and friendly towards his all-black battalion. By contrast, the redneck Southern US servicemen who follow are the archetypical racists - much to the consternation of the local townsfolk, who support the blacks and wish for their continued presence.
Herein is a canard laid to rest. This book was written in the early 1940's - supposedly a time, as sociologists would have us believe - that England was riven by class and race hatred. And yet here we see ordinary people treating folk similar to themselves with the decency and respect they would wish for.
The other characters have stories that are as interesting and well-structured - for Shute was a skillful narrator who wrote in a style of 'beginning, middle, end' that seems to have been largely forgotten.
This book is well worth your attention as a good story and a message to review history.
on 21 April 2009
The Chequer Board is first and foremost a tale of friendship. It's the story of a man's search for meaning, discovered through the key events in the lives of some unlikely companions. Shute tells the story well, with plenty of twists to hold your interest. The way he describes the scenery throughout the book really makes the story come alive and each character definitely has a distinctive voice. This book has realism, adventure, love and tragedy - definitely worth a read.
on 28 May 2001
The book commences with Mr Turner seeing a consultant because of trouble with his sight. This is quickly diagnosed as being the result of shrapnel lodged in the brain after a war time plane crash. The prognosis is poor.
Turner who has been somewhat of a spiv has to decide what do with the remains of his life. He decides to try to find the men he was in hospital with after the accident - a pilot with a feckless wife, a soldier awaiting court marshall for murder and a black american soldier accused of rape.
The book takes us to Burma and Cornwall.
We are given the racism, sexism and social class structure of the 1940's. But the book is good to read or listen to. Once more Nevile Shute has taken an ordinary man and put him in an extraordinary situation for us to view and see how he copes.
on 10 December 2012
The chequer board is one of the best books that Nevil Shute as written in my view, It is a excellent story and well told as true today as it was when first penned. If you have never read any of Nevil Shute you are missing a lot of very good books.IF you do one thing this xmas for yourself buy one of Nevil Shute's books you will not regret it GOOD READING and thanks...
on 3 July 2014
It is a good experience to re-read Mr Norways books again, and reflect on his experiences of life , portrayed in his various tales, and compare it with ours. As a lad from the 1930's, also, knowing Farnborough, jet development, and National Svc in Malaya, his stories ring with a truth. Good reading, and to be recommended.
on 30 October 2014
This is the story of one man's actions after he has been given a diagnosis that he has a short time to live. He decides he wants meet some men who were kind to him when they were in hospital together. He hopes to help them if they had not done well. The stories of his searches are well told,believable and thought provoking.
Whilst the book is set in the 1940's its themes and views are still relevant today. It will appeal to those who like a good story well told but making you reflect on racism,war and death.