For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.
Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget. From Goodreads.
I do not know how to begin this review. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough took me completely by surprise. It's beautiful, it moved me, and was not what I expected at all.
Henry, a white boy with an academic and wealthy future ahead of him, if he just does exactly what is expected of him by his adoptive family - who do not view him as family. Flora, a black girl who spends her nights singing to make ends meet, but dreams of a life in the sky - a dream that seems as far away as the sky itself. Love and Death, who chose them as their unknowing players in a game they have no say in. When they meet, their lives are turned around, the attraction immediate. But romance isn't easy when you're from different backgrounds - having to work hard for every cent, or having everything you're told you need handed to you; being inconsequential for being white, or being noticed and scorned for being black. But when love finds you, it's hard to ignore - even when it's all a game.
Oh, how I loved this book! And there are so many reasons for it! It's so beautifully written, and so quotable! Brockenbrough has some wonderful, gorgeous insights into love, death, and life, and a way with words that just beg to be read out loud! For this reason alone, The Game of Love and Death captured my heart, but the story! It reminded me at times of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, but with Love and Death as those who set up the game, it's such an original and thought-provoking story! The way Love and Death manipulate situations or the people around their players reminded me so much of a game of chess; tactics and strategies, moving pieces into place, but on such a larger scale with such unbelievable effects, it was wonderful to watch.
Henry and Flora were such amazing characters. Henry is so romantic; his love for Flora was pure and so, so sweet. He adored her, and sees not her skin colour, but the beauty of who she is. He is completely enamoured by her, and by her gorgeously lush voice. A musician himself, he is completely captivated by the music made in her club, by the way she sings. Flora is incredible! She loves Henry, without a doubt, but she's a realist. She's black, he's white, it's simply not going to work. Rather than have her heartbroken, she fights how she feels at every turn. She's independent and fierce, and will not have this get in the way of her life, of her dreams. How I loved this girl, despite her pessimism, her certainty that there is no way. She is strong-willed and determined, and such a fantastic heroine! We need more girls like Flora in YA! Girls who are not willing to drop everything for a boy! Even though I was rooting for them both throughout, I admired Flora for her strong sense of self, of her steady head, and for not turning completely into a pile of goo because of a smile and some nice words from a boy. I just loved her!
Neither Love nor Death are who you think they would be. They are complex beings, pawns themselves in their own roles. Neither Love nor Death is completely good nor completely bad, and they have their own stories too. The game isn't just a form of entertainment for them, it's not just about winning or losing; by losing, both will suffer. Though Love is full of compassion and joy at the beauty in life - especially of the most amazing emotion in existence, Love has also never won. This can make him a little desperate, and some of his actions are shocking. Death, despite her cruel and manipulative ways at times, is the character I found most sympathetic of the two. She's not all she seems, but not only does she have her part to play, she has an endless hunger, a hunger than must be fed.
There was another part of this story that had me wanting to shout for joy! The human embodiment of Love - whose embodiment is male - develops feelings for a guy. In the 1930s, when homosexuality was seen as repugnant. The significance was not lost on me; Love doesn't see gender, or gender matters not at all to Love. Love embraces love, there is no wrong when it comes to love, no matter who you love. I cannot tell you how much I loved seeing this subplot! Seeing this was just so beautiful, I can't even tell you. And Love's thoughts on such things, oh my god!
'"The powerful are happy to send men to the front lines of war and have their limbs shot off. But should that man ask a question, he's a traitor. This same system could condemn injustice, but instead it chooses to condemn something as simple and as fundamental as the search for the second half. We are all born wanting this. Why does it matter what shape this second half takes, provided it is the thing both seeks? [...] Why choose fear over love? In what world does that make sense?"' (p179)The Game of Love and Death is quite simply breathtaking, for so many reasons. And you all need to discover just how incredible this book is for yourself.
Thank you to Scholastic for the reading copy.
Published: 2nd April 2015
Martha Brockenbrough's Website