Le jeu perdant

losing game coverWinchester Crown Court, October 2035: Richard Shaw leaves, a free man.

Grief-stricken and angry, Lucas Green is hell-bent on revenge against Richard Shaw, who killed his sister. Lucas has heard of a man who can help—the handsome and urbane owner of a boutique sex shop with a head for planning crimes. But Dante Okoro has a past he’s desperate to keep buried. Though Lucas piques his interest in more ways than one, Dante turns him away. Still, he wonders if he made the right decision….

An unexpected death brings Dante and Lucas together once more. This time they can’t ignore the chemistry between them. But courting a lover with lies is a dangerous game. Dante has been spying on Lucas, convinced he has plans to kill Shaw. Lucas has been spying on Shaw, waiting for the right moment to strike. If Dante admits his suspicions to Lucas, he’ll surely lose him. If he doesn’t, Lucas might do something reckless—and end up losing everything.

Fra: I have very ambivalent thoughts about The Losing Game. On the one hand I absolutely loved the writing. Lane’s gift for words that are evocative and convey strong emotions is undeniable. On the other hand the feeling of melancholy and oppression never ever lifted for me.

“The sun hadn’t exactly risen – more poured itself languidly over the night, washing the darkness into a milky shade of gray….the air felt oppressive” this sentence right here exactly describes my somewhat inconclusive feelings about this novel.

There’s that evocative language – I mean how good an image is “the sun pouring itself languidly over the night”. And yet there is not light after the darkness but a “milky shade of gray..the air is oppressive” and to be completely honest it never ever lifts up.

Talking about Losing Game with my co bloggers I said that I find the mark of an excellent writer when the mood of the characters transports itself into the mood of the reader: my challenge here though is that I ended up absorbing both Lucas’ grief and anger and Dante’s  mid life crisis and I couldn’t see any light at all.

Karen: I agree with you Fra, I can’t remember being this conflicted over a book for a very long time. The writing was totally evocative of the grief of Lucas for me, and at times beautiful. Lucas himself as a character was a terrific portrayal of man literally weighted down with grief . The feeling of loss is palpable at times. And while I really appreciated the skill of the author in bringing this to life, it was actually quite difficult to read.

Miki: I’m with you about the conflicted feelings. Absolutely. But the sensations I felt were different. I didn’t feel personally depressed. It didn’t reach me that way. Personally, I found the book dense and heavy in the writing style and the way it conveys emotions. I understand that the intention was to give that kind of *mood*, but despite that I didn’t like the way the book flows. It’s not natural, it doesn’t go smoothly, it’s dense to read in some way.

One thing is to construct a book that is heavy with the emotional intensity but one very different is to think that the writing should be equally heavy.

And I was thinking that maybe this is because of our different cultures and background, the way we lived and grew up. And how that affects the way we see or feel everything. I mean, you´re European, I´m Latin American…

Fra: Yes, that is me also: completely and utterly conflicted on how I feel about the novel.

And you make an excellent point Miki: one thing is to expertly build a mood; conveying an emotional status using language and the other is to actually affect the mood of the reader.

Dante’s melancholy is not only palpable it is encompassing and, oh my gods, Lucas’s grief and anger are tangible – but I ended up feeling all of those things.

In a way the writing is relentless in the pursuit of its end and in a way that became too much for me to accept as credible.

Miki you made an excellent comparison when we were talking about the book: you mentioned French movies and the way they are oppressive and never let up. I thought that pretty much summed up my experience with this story.

I understand the emotional and psychological predicament of both characters but I wasn’t able to either use it in a cathartic way or to be detached from their feelings and not be dragged under by them.

Karen: On the massive plus side I really liked the female characters, none of whom seemed to be add ons, but were interesting and vital. Avery in particular, in fact I wanted to read her story. Lois and Kit, Dantes adopted daughters could easily carry a book as well. And in my reading experience having one well fleshed non stereotypical woman in a book is a bonus, but three , with a possible fourth in Lily, was terrific.

Fra: Oh yes Karen, absolutely. It is so refreshing to see vital female characters in this genre: women who you can see as women rather than as the female archetypes (in the best of cases and stereotypes in the worst) in the protagonist journey.

I fell in love with Avery and would love to know her story – so much power in one lady.

Same with Lois and Kit, there’s a story there that I would love to be told.

I also will say that Dante’s relationships with his daughters – and in a way – with his friends felt very natural to me and very well developed.

Miki: And they were natural characters. Not something put there just to satisfy the ingredients of a trope

Fra: hear hear Miki! I read a book recently where the women wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test!

Karen: I also think that Lane Swift was trying, and on levels succeeded, in doing something different, but some of that got lost in the romance/ other things balance – and by that I mean that I felt the book wasn’t quite a romance nor was it quite a psychological thriller, although there were strong elements of both there, primarily it was a romance.

Fra: You might be onto something there Karen and Miki: the narrative did feel somewhat disjointed as if the author found it difficult to tie up the story into one continuous flow and I am starting to wonder whether it is due to this tension between the psychological thriller that is undoubtedly happening here and the romance tropes.
So, we found the book incredibly well written, undoubtedly  Swift has a gift with words and can evoke strong emotions through very close character study, but eventually the oppressive emotional characters’ landscape and the unresolved tension between psychological thriller and the more conventional romance left us conflicted. That being said, kind of looking forward to a sequel !

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