The Rules of the Game
A striking historical novel for young readers
Rules of the Game is a historical novel for young readers, set in the Middle Ages, about an arranged marriage between two noble teenagers, which proceeds according to strict, patriarchal rules. After all, in the fourteenth century marriage is not a question of love, but of convenience, and so as a child Marjorie van de Witborg is already destined for Allard van Goudheuvel. We hear from both of them in turn, and they are quite candid about their feelings. When they get married, they hardly know each other.
Allard does not think much of Marjorie’s looks, and he soon begins to loathe her, in spite of Marjories’s attempts to make him happy. The young couple, the “knight? and the “maiden,? avoid each other and go their separate ways. Allard goes off with his macho friends, and in her loneliness Marjorie retreats to the strange castle, where she has only one friend: the steward Gilbert, who can see that Marjorie wants to be more than meek as a sheep, dumb as a cow and pretty as a mare, as one of Allard’s friends describes the ideal maiden. Allard abuses Marjorie, and his family is upset because is not yet pregnant. All this plays out against the overwhelming fear of the Plague, which claimed the life of Allard’s older brother three years earlier, a brother who was dearer to him than Marjorie is now. Alchemists, quack doctors and soothsayers cash in on that fear and feed superstition. Nevertheless in the end Marjorie succeeds, at least in part, in breaking through the strict rules ofsthe Medieval game of man-and-woman, creating a meaningful life for herself and becoming good friends with Allard.
The book is written in modern-day language, with our modern-day knowledge of psychology and male-female relationships, and that gives not only an outer sharpness and sparkle, but also an inner depth to our image of “the olden days?. This shows the reader what Medieval knightly life was really like. It lets you see how unhappy both young people are in their conflict with the oppressive “rules? of adult life, which are imposed on them when they aren’t yet ready for them. Rules of the Game is a striking historical novel for young readers, written in a sober, fluid style.
Lieke van Duin