Saturday, May 19, 2012


Simon Mawer is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel The Glass Room, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. His previous novels include The Fall (winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize), The Gospel of Judas, and Mendel’s Dwarf (long-listed for the Man Booker Prize). English by birth, he has made Italy his home for more than thirty years.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest novel, Trapeze, and reported the following:
Problem: page 69 in the US edition is just the end of a letter followed by a whole lot of blank space. Now I could extemporise on blank space for hundreds of pages – it’s called writing a novel – but as I’ve got a word limit here, I’ll cheat and take page 69 of the UK edition. Incidentally, in its British manifestation the book has a different title: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.

So what you get on page 69 of TGWFFTS is dialogue, and it’s clearly someone being interviewed or maybe, the realisation will dawn on the casual browser, interrogated. “Look, I want my clothes. I’m cold and I want my clothes. You can’t keep me like this—”

She’s naked?

Oh, no, not quite: “We can keep you how we please. We can strip you naked if we like. Now tell us their address.”

And then you realise it’s a fake interrogation… but she played the game, knowing that one day it might not be a game any longer and she wouldn’t have a Get Out of Jail card and the men behind the lights would be members of the Gestapo.

Following that, there’s an abrupt cut to a new section. Miss Atkins is talking with her in an office, turning over the pages of her file at the same time – “Tolerated arrest and interrogation,” she reads, “Kept to her cover story throughout and made no slips” – and then looking up and saying, “I’m putting you forward for immediate deployment in the field. You’ll go in the next moon period,” and you know what’s happening. It’s the moment when Marian Sutro, a mere nineteen years old, is being dispatched on the biggest and most frightening adventure of her life.

Yes, page 69 works quite well…
Learn more about the book and author at Simon Mawer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue