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The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

May 25th, 2015 (11:11 am)
hopeful
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Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: The Writer by Ellie Goulding

In the first chapter of The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, a baby boy is visited by the manifestation of Love. Appearing as a man in a fine gray suit, Love gives the boy a steady heart and these words: "Have courage." The next night, the manifestation of Death visits a baby girl across town and marks the child with a tear and whispered warnings. The first chapter is set in 1920; the next chapter skips forward to 1937, when the players are seventeen years old and the Game officially begins.

Told in third person, the book shuttles between the perspectives of the players - Flora, an African-American aviatrix who tends to planes during the day and sings jazz music at her uncle's club at night, and Henry, a scholarship student who lives with his best friend's well-to-do family - and the game runners - Death, a cynical feminine presence who would give Once Upon a Time's Queen Regina a run for her money, and Love, a masculine presence who believes in the transformative power of love. Other characters who come into play include Henry's best friend Ethan, Ethan's little sister Annabel, Ethan's cousin Helen, Flora's grandmother, Flora's uncle, and others at the jazz club. The third-person narrative permits the readers to know more about the characters, the events, and the overall big picture than the main players, who are unaware of their part in the Game. Revelations and connections lead to some tense page turns, especially as the story ramps up to the climax.

Death is a master manipulator, cunning and some would say cruel as she finds a way to get close to Henry and use him as a pawn. Meanwhile, Love is determined and hopeful, and his side story is something that made me want to give Brockenbrough a very strong high-five. The world would be a better place if all people were open-minded and optimistic and true to themselves.

The contrast between Death and Love is stark, but what's even more interesting is what they have in common. Consider, if you will, what they want; what they seek; what they are willing to sacrifice; and what they refuse to give up. It's eye-opening and tear-jerking and thought-provoking and other hyphenated things. If you are an emotional reader, you should probably have a box of Kleenex nearby. Also, perhaps you should sit in a comfy chair so you can grip the arm of it and/or curl up in a ball when necessary.

The writing throughout the novel is thoughtful. Every scene offers a complete picture of the setting and the people present. For example:

"Do you ever wonder," Helen said, walking down the stairs towards him, "if flowers feel pain when someone cuts them?" She lifted one from the basket. "Does it look like it suffered?"

"Oh, Helen," Mrs. Thorne said, "what a curious thing to say. I'm sure Henry has thought no such thing."

It was true. But, he realized, he would not be able to look at a flower again without wondering whether it had suffered, or whether anyone had cared.
- Page 94

The word "someday" is introduced early in the book as something important to the characters, and it leads to an impactful song that I wish we could hear.

If you liked The Game of Love and Death, you should check out The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Read the original book, then see the classic film. The book was written by Josephine Leslie, but she used a pseudonym: R.A. Dick. The book also inspired a TV series, a sitcom. You should also read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which is directly narrated by Death, who is omniscient and genderless and more of an observer than a manipulator. Set on the European homefront during World War II, you'll need Kleenex to handle the tears you'll shed while reading that book, too.