Friday, 10 April 2015

Review: The Game of Love & Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Publication Date: 2nd April 2015
Publisher: Scholastic
Length: 352 pages

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.

The hardest reviews for me to write are for books that I absolutely loved, because in some cases I find myself reduced to near incoherency out of sheer love and there is only so much READ THIS BOOK NOW, SO GOOD that I can put in a review…
So this review has been incredibly hard. I’ve sat down to write it several times and am only now beginning to be able to string sentences together. 

This book is stunning. It is a work of art. It forces you to feel in a way that I have not encountered in a book in a very long time. I was completely immersed in this story within the first few pages and once I had begun, I found it very difficult (near impossible) to separate myself from the story for longer than simple things like having a sandwich. It is all consuming.

I loved Henry and Flora fiercely. I found myself wanting to protect Flora from the horrible things she had to face, being a young black girl in 1930s America. I have never had such a visceral sense of anger and injustice reading as I did during some of the scenes where the colour of her skin denotes how people respond and communicate with her.
She and Henry are such a wonderful pair. Their sense of selves with each other, the ease and banter, the magnetic attraction and feeling that the world was sliding away and falling out from under them. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted so fully for a pair to have a slice of happiness as I did with them.

The book is desperately sad, full of joy, passion, heartbreak and anger. It is a novel teeming with life and emotion, courage and the possibilities of life.
It’s hauntingly beautiful and woven together with the genius of Martha’s writing. Lyrical, almost poetical in places it captures the essence of young love in a dangerous and fraught time. The emotions and tensions bubbling beneath the surface until the incredible and climactic final chapters.

Fans of ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern will love this game between Love and Death, who are such wonderful complex characters and who really drive the novel to new depths – ones you wouldn’t normally expect with a book about two people falling in love. They add a sense of urgency, of the unknown and make the events feel as though they are poised on the brink of a knife, ready to tumble either way. It is rare for me to genuinely have no idea how a novel will end, but ‘The Game of Love & Death’ not only kept me on my toes, but surprised me again and again, and I was crying by the final page.

This is a stunningly beautiful book. I cannot really find the words to express how much I loved it and how much it meant to me. All I can say is read it. If you read only one book this year, let it be this one. It is a masterpiece of writing and one that I will return to again and again.

Want to know a bit more about Martha? Check out my interview with her here!
And follow her on twitter! @mbrockenbrough


  1. I'm so glad this lived up to its synopsis - I can't wait to get stuck in :)

    1. It was fantastic! Would love to know what you think when you've finished!

  2. Rosy. Seriously. I'm so glad I have a review copy of this one on my nightstand or your review might have sent me over the edge with wanting. Must. Start. Soon.

    1. Ha! Do it! Do it now! It is such an incredible book, I cannot way to hear what you think of it!