The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death

“Why choose fear over love? In what world does that make sense?”

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.

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Personal Thoughts:

Love versus Death. Who will win? Who will lose?

In this imaginative and beautifully written novel, Martha Brockenbrough tell how Love and Death play a game wherein two people’s lives and hearts are involved.

It started in 1920 when Love and Death choose their players for a game of supremacy. Seventeen years after, the real game begin. Love and Death make their moves into their players lives for a match of life and death.

Henry Thorne a typical white teenager who grow up with an upper class family will play for Love. And Flora Saudade a black African-American, hard working jazz musician with interest on flying planes will play for Death. These two have no idea of the game, no idea of the rules but their lives are at stake.

Will they survive the game?

From the first chapter, I fall in love with Martha Brockenbrough writing. It’s atmospheric and absorbing that I have to savor every words of this beautiful novel. As she introduced Love and Death who are then picking their players, I admire the sophistication of her style and the beauty of her prose. It feels like I am traveling to a different world and era. Like I am standing there during the stormy night as Game and Death put their marks on Henry and Flora.

“Someday, everyone you love will die. Everything you love will crumble to ruin. This is the price of life. This is the price of love. It is the only ending for every true story.”

Death is my favorite character in this book. I even bet that she will win the game. At first, I was surprised that Martha represent Death as a girl or woman and then glad that she did because not only it is unusual but also it counter balance the gender discrimination in the story. But what I really love about Death as a character is her strong presence. She is confident in winning the game, and she will do anything to win. And it also didn’t hurt that Martha shows a different side of Death. Even Death is made to kill or take lives, she isn’t one of those paper-thin villain that we usually read somewhere. In Martha’s version, Death is more than just a killer.

When Death is using love tactics and Love is using Death tactics to win I find it quite amusing. Just imagined Death as a girl trying to win Henry’s affection so that he won’t fall for Flora. Or love willing to kill just to win the game.

“I, however, have not yet succeeded at love. Henry hardly looks at me. And to think that I’ve made him at least thirty-seven sandwiches.”

Martha Brockenbrough choose her settings well. The time period gives more push to the characters lives and condition. Seattle in 1937 is just after the Great Depression and there are many issues that still going on during that era. Martha uses those issues to clothed Flora and Henry’s life adding more conflict to the plot. One of this issues is racial segregation which basically the central force that dictate Flora and Henry’s lives. Being in different race or color, Flora and Henry are expected to be not together. It easily favor Death but it is also not unknown how love conquer these kinds of problems.

Overall, The Game of Love and Death is a highly imaginative novel that mixed historical fiction and magical realism perfectly. Martha Brockenbrough exquisite writing plus her complex characters both human and unexplained forces makes this novel worthy of praises.


* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.