Friday, August 21, 2015


Nicole Galland's novels include The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago; and Godiva. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

Galland applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Stepdog, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…I realized with a sinking feeling I’d be earning the green card by spending much of the coming dark New England winter being stalked by a dog in someone else’s small apartment.

Sara greenlighted me on adding a sports package to the cable so I could at least catch some footy and watch Manchester United trounce Liverpool. It took the dog awhile to get used to my shouting at the telly and dancing a jig when United beat Liverpool…. John Henry, Mr. Owner of the Red Sox, put me in a difficult position when he bought Liverpool F.C. – the playoffs were beginning and although Sara was not into sports, everyone in Boston is into the Red Sox. There’s a rule or something. We agreed not to discuss it. But under my guidance, the dog developed a healthy respect for Man United. Not that I talked to her about it; only Americans and Brits discuss sports with their dogs. I talked directly to the television, loudly, and was gratified that she was interested in what I had to say to it.

Rain finally stopped. And after what felt like an eternity, the sun came out… A gorgeous autumn was unfurling in New England. One benefit of being at Sara’s was its proximity to Arnold Arboretum. Imagine all the best parks in all the British Isles got dumped together into one place on the outskirts of Boston – and we lived walking distance from the front gate. I went back to walking there every day. The colors were starting, the air was loaded with cool autumn scents and full of thriving birdlife, almost like the rurals in Ireland.

But the days were getting shorter, and that led to a new canine-related tension…
Stepdog’s page 69 contains no actual scene, and in fact, if I were to single out any one passage to create the wrong impression of the narrator, this would be it. The whole page functions as a cross-fade from the relationship's summer “honeymoon phase" into its autumnal "sophomore slump." The premise of the story – based on our real-life marriage! – is that Rory (an Irish actor) falls precipitously in love with his friend Sara just as his performance visa runs out. They have an impulsive, secret marriage-of-convenience so he can get a green card… and remarkably, the only source of tension in their marriage is her over–attachment to her dog.

On page 69, Rory has just moved into Sara’s apartment, but can’t legally work, so he’s home all day with the dog. Thus he’s newly at loose ends and fairly pathetic – it’s the only moment in the book where he displays the slightest interest in what’s on television, and as you can see in the excerpt, he’s completely preoccupied with it. It’s in sharp contrast to how he is throughout the rest of the book, where he’s generally a playful smart–ass, an extrovert who loves to stay engaged with the world around him. So I wouldn’t recommend page 69 as representative of the story. I would, rather, recommend anything a few pages later, once Rory (more characteristically) stops whining and comes up with some creative solutions to his woes.

Solutions which, it turns out, cause the crisis that is the second half of the story.
Visit Nicole Galland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue