Title: The Game of Love and Death
Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now…Henry and Flora.
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.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
My Thoughts On…
For centuries Love and Death have been playing game, taking two people and letting their fate run its course until they either choose each other, or walk away. Every time before Death has won, and taken the life of her player as her reward, but now there is a new game afoot and Love is determined to win this one.
Henry lives a life of privilege; he is white, wealthy, and intelligent, and the world seems to be his for the taking. In comparison Flora has nothing; she is black, orphaned, and poor but when these two finally come face to face their differences no longer matter. The first time Henry sees Flora he is struck, and later when he hears her sing he only becomes more enchanted with her. In turn there is something about Henry that draws Flora but she is all too aware of the differences between them to give into love.
Against all odds Flora and Henry start to fall in love, and Love and Death start putting the pieces of their game into play. It isn’t just Henry and Flora whose lives depend on the outcome of this game, and game they have no knowledge their playing. While neither Love nor Death can manipulate their players there is nothing in the rules about manipulating the people or places outside of Henry and Flora. While Henry struggles to convince Flora the two of them can make what they have work and Flora struggles to scrimp and save up enough money to afford her own plane Love and Death start pushing their way into Henry and Flora’s lives, wrecking havoc and doing anything they can to win.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I picked this book up. The Game of Love and Death is a very unique book but there are similarities between it and other favourites of mine. The game between Henry and Flora, Love and Death reminded me of the game in The Night Circus, something that exists in the peripheral vision of the characters but which could have dire consequences once the outcome is decided. The setting and the personification of both Love and Death reminded me of The Book Thief. This is a book which packs a punch, there were so many important themes discussed which makes this an important story.
Henry is a very idealistic character. He had a hard childhood, losing his mother, sister and father at a very young age, but he hasn’t let it sour his outlook on life. He truly believes that with Flora at his side the two of them can achieve anything, and that the difference in their status and the colour of their skin won’t matter in the long run. Henry is Love’s player and as such he is full of love, a kind and soulful boy whose only goal is to find his other half, the person he can truly be happy with.
Flora as Death’s player has had her life shaped by death. She fears a mysterious ‘someday’, the day everything good naturally comes to an end. Flora has a dream to travel around the world, flying like Amelia Earhart. She’s talented, determined, and knows her worth as a pilot but because of the colour of her skin she’s been forced to accept less than her worth from the world. Still she hopes and saves every penny she has for that one day, far off goal.
The relationship between Flora and Henry was one that developed fast. With the game in progress they were drawn to one another without quite knowing why, but there wasn’t an insta-love feel to their connection. Henry works hard to fit into Flora’s world, showing her that they can be together, but Flora is all too aware of everything keeping them apart, and all too aware of her dream which she is determined to fulfil. Still she can’t deny what’s growing between them every time they meet.
Love and Death are major characters in this story and in Flora and Henry’s lives. They take different forms and manipulate the events to their advantage. When you first meet both characters it’s easy to see Death as the villain, simply because of the nature of her character and the prize she claims at the end of each game, but there is more to both characters than meets the eye. Death is not wholly the villain, the same as Love is not wholly the hero of the game. They’re both morally ambiguous characters but I loved reading the story from their perspectives.
The secondary characters were all really well developed and written, but the one who stood out the most for me was Ethan, Henry’s pseudo brother. Ethan struggled a lot with who he is, and his story was heartbreaking to read at times simply because of what he went through and what he thought about himself. His development and journey didn’t take anything away from Flora’s and Henry’s romance or from the story, but instead added another side to Ethan and Henry’s relationship, and to Love himself.
The Game of Love and Death is set in the 1930’s. A time when everyone still felt the scars of the Great War but a time when the threat of the Second World War is fast approaching, a time when black and white people were kept separate and a time where the Great Depression is in full swing, with Hooverville packed full of the down on their luck. It is not a happy time but any means, but at the same time there is still hope. I thought Martha Brockenbrough wrote all the details from that time period really well. Flora’s voice as a black girl living through the racial segregation of the thirties really shone through, as did Death’s when she witnessed some of the terrible things happening around the world.
Normally I’d say The Game of Love and Death isn’t the kind of book that interests me, but there was something about it that just caught my attention and wouldn’t let go. The story was reminiscent of two of my all-time favourite books, the characters and the situations they faced were heartbreakingly well written, and I was instantly hooked on the concept of Love and Death as people, locked into a centuries long game.
What did you think of The Game of Love and Death? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.