The Gameshouse – Claire North – 10.08.22

This is my sixth Claire North novel of the summer, and unlike the previous one, The End of The Day, which was my favourite so far, this one was probably my least favourite. It’s actually sometimes sold as three novellas (annoyingly, Amazon keeps trying to tempt me into buy them as similar to what I’ve been reading when they are what I’ve been reading!) all set at different periods in history but all revolving around the mysterious Gameshouse.

The first part, The Serpent, is set in seventeenth century Venice. In the Gameshouse, people gamble money, or maybe a number of years of their life, or their sense of taste or whatever, and the games they play involve real people and politics or even war. A woman whose husband has gambled away all their money is offered the chance to play to win the chance to make her own life.

The second part, The Thief is one that I liked the most. A man agrees to a game of hide and seek which will cost him his memory if he loses. It is set in Thailand in the 1930s and I enjoyed the ingenuity of the man travelling through rural and cityscapes evading capture.

The final part, The Master, set in contemporary time, has a player taking on the gamesmaster to win control over the gameshouse. He says his motive is to shut down the games house because he is troubled how it ‘plays dice with people’s lives’ and wars and deaths are nothing and any number of real people are easily sacrificed by players trying to win the games. There was a huge death toll in this story, and although I get that this is the point, both in this fictional gameshouse, and as an allegory holding up a mirror to real life where the decisions of world leaders can send men to war, or take away people’s livelihood without any personal cost in their own power games, I still found it a disturbing and uncomfortable read.

So, while I can appreciate the clever social commentary and once again by Claire North, unique storytelling, I didn’t so much enjoy reading this one.

Published by sarahrwray

I'm an erstwhile writer and forever reader and book reviewer.

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