Monday, September 28, 2015

"The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine"

Alex Brunkhorst is a novelist and a real estate agent specializing in multi-million dollar estates for Los Angeles’s wealthiest professionals. She is also the founder of the popular luxury lifestyle site

Brunkhorst applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine, and reported the following:
From page 69:
The next morning the rain started.

It began with a few stray drops, gentle and unassuming. But by afternoon, as I sat down with the governor in the library of a private club in downtown Los Angeles, the clouds had opened. Water puddles had turned to flash floods and roads across the city were closed.

It rained for the next four days, and the young woman on the tennis court handcuffed my thoughts. When I think back on those days after our first meeting I only recall staring at the rain and thinking of her. Everyday tasks – work, errands and sleep – sparkled somehow, as if her enchanting spell hung over even the most mundane things. She was ubiquitous; no corner of the world could hide her. I thought of her bare shoulders, the way her long ponytail brushed against her dress when she ran for the ball, how her diamond tennis bracelet got caught in her hair each time she put her hand through its blond tendrils. All other food tasted dull compared with the pineapple she placed on my tongue, and no air tingled my skin like the cool air of that night on the tennis court, and no touch felt as electric as her fingers on my skin.
As a writer, I have always found my greatest inspiration in times of longing and unrequited love (or “crushes”, to quote my twenty-year-old cousin). Therefore, a theme in my writing is loving someone who has already gone or is not there. It’s only natural then that Thomas Cleary shares that same trait. The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine is told from Thomas’s perspective in a wistful flashback; I have always thought it reads more like a diary and less like a book. Thomas is a journalist by trade, albeit a highly emotional one. He is both objective and subjective – sometimes in the same sentence.

Page 69 is the beginning of Chapter Eight, and it feels like a transition. In the beginning of the novel, Thomas is longing for his past – for a job that went irreversibly awry, for his life in Manhattan, and for a wealthy socialite who broke his heart. But then, just before Chapter Eight, Thomas meets Matilda Duplaine on her vast estate in Bel-Air. She’s practicing serves on her hidden tennis court alone, dressed for a final at Wimbledon. Matilda’s an eccentric creature, and Thomas is immediately enchanted by her.

Page 69 marks the beginning of an overall atmospheric shift in the book and is very indicative of the themes that permeate the novel. The relentless, fertile rain replaces the barren and hot Santa Ana conditions and as Thomas himself admits, “…the young woman on the tennis court handcuff[s] my thoughts.” Thomas doesn’t even know Matilda’s name yet, but it’s that time in a nascent relationship when everything about the other person entrances you. They find their way into every one of your thoughts, every part of your life.

Page 69 is a short page, one of the shortest in the novel. But it happens to be one of my favorites. It sets the table for Thomas and Matilda’s relationship to come, and it allows the reader to join Thomas in falling in love with the enigmatic girl who is Matilda Duplaine.
Visit Alex Brunkhorst's website.

--Marshal Zeringue