So Mary Francis Shura’s The Josie Gambit is where I learned pretty much everything I knew about chess. Twelve-year-old chess geek Greg is spending six months with his grandmother, and he reunites with his old friend and chess partner Josie. Josie has an absolutely hateful friend Tory, whose utter nastiness everyone is at a loss to explain. And the book is, essentially, all about why Tory is such a nasty girl.
When I was small, I liked this book because everyone ate a lot of food, and I learned interesting things about chess, and there was a very unpleasant Lhaso Apso, which I thought was funny. As an adult I am still pleased with it, though for different reasons. I like it because chess is completely twined around the story. A large portion of the plot centers around chess – Greg learned chess in the first place from Josie’s grandmother, and Greg and Josie and Tory are all part of the school chess team – and the internal structure of the plot is very chessy. It’s much with the opening moves and the counters, and the – I don’t know, other chess terms. (I really know very little about chess.)
And today I reread Little Women. I love Little Women. There are so many bits of Little Women that I love – the whole chapter about the Pickwick Papers and the Post Office sounds so friendly and cozy, and I love it when Jo makes friends with Laurie, and Beth makes friends with Mr. Laurence. And it’s amazing how I can find Beth absolutely nauseating and still cry like a baby when she dies. I cry when she and Jo even talk about her dying. I love this book. I love Louisa May Alcott, even when she’s being horribly sanctimonious.
Louisa May Alcott does loads better at writing about children than adults – Rose in Bloom is less good than Eight Cousins, and same goes for the other two books about the March girls. People are more fun when they aren’t being virtuous all the time. If there were a book just about Marmee and Mr. Alcott, I would tear my face off. I hate it when Marmee tells nauseating stories to her daughters (blech!). But I digress. Louisa May Alcott is brilliant with her characters really, and probably more than ordinarily in Little Women, or maybe I just think that because I read it when I was so little. I love that you can see them growing up, and they grow up totally themselves – Amy is still Amy when she grows up, only nicer and more mature! Brilliant! And Laurie and Jo are great as best friends, but I know they wouldn’t really suit as a married couple. (Though I slightly still want them to get married because I like Laurie and I identify with Jo.)