Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Betrayals

The Betrayals
  The Betrayals
Author:  Bridget Collins
Publication Information:  William Morrow. 2021. 416 pages.
ISBN:  0062838121 / 978-0062838124

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Tonight the moonlight makes the floor of the Great Hall into a game board."

Favorite Quote:  "We search for the divine everywhere, she could say, and we may find it in the grand jeu or in the liturgy or both. There were grands jeux played in the Hagia Sophia and in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and at the Western Wall. It is modern arrogance to imagine that the divinity we hope to touch through the grand jeu is better than, or even different to, the deities of other religions. A young way to worship is not necessarily a better way, not is it the only way..."


This book appears set in a controlled, dystopian society where disagreeing with the powers that be will get you banished or worse. There is the Party and the Old Man. Christians are also labeled, forced to identify themselves, and persecuted. In a different context and with a different faith, sound familiar? Unfortunately, the book takes this in such a different direction that it loses a historical correlation for me. I don't want to follow along to see the parallels the book may draw to the history.

There is a school that teaches student the "grand jeu" - the big game. However, the book never explains what that actually is. It is a mix of music, math, magic, and other things. I don't get it, for a book that is based on that, that is too large a challenge to overcome. The book attempts to make a philosophical point:
  • "The grand jeu is not a game. It is the opposite of a game It is our way of paying attention to something outside ourselves. And what is outside ourselves - whatever truly exists - is the divine. We remake the world so that we can submit to it, and what we encounter, in the act of playing the grand jeu, is the truth."
  • "The grand jeu is worship, isn't it? One way for humans to approach the divine. Trying to embody the truth and beauty. A testament to the grace of God in the minds of men."
Unfortunately, I don't see the correlation because I still don't understand what the game is and what it metaphorically relates to. So, I cannot go along for the spiritual journey.

For me, it becomes even more challenging that the experts of this truth seeking are two characters whose very life and pursuit of the truth are based in lies. Again, I don't get it. It unfortunately makes the characters unlikable and unsympathetic. So, I don't wish to go along for their journey.

There is another character named simply the Rat. The backstory and the unfortunate naming as a creature not a character never quite makes her real. Her correlation to the main story also never quite comes together for me. She may have had the most compelling story of all, but the book does not go in that direction.

Characters aside, at over 400 pages, the pace of the book is very very slow. The winding back and forth through two timelines also does not work in this scenario because the "present" is about discovering the lies of the "past" and having that understanding lead to the past making sense for these characters. The confusion of the grand jeu ideas, the unlikability of the characters and the irony of a story about truth being held together with lies extends to both timelines and makes it truly challenging to invest in the story.

To some extent, for me, the book makes an attempt at an intellectual point. Either it does so unsuccessfully, or my intellect does not reach the understanding. At the end of the book, I am left wondering. What did I just read? And why? I walk away, knowing that I was clearly not the right reader for this book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment