Fraillon applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Bone Sparrow, and reported the following:
Wow. I had never heard of the page 69 test before, but it is like some strange sort of magic. Having gone to my own books, I then stumbled into a kind of page 69 hysteria and ran around the house turning to the 69th page in each book I came across. I love this test! How does it work? Is this some strange publishing trick I don’t know about…?Follow Zana Fraillon on Twitter.
Anyway, the 69th page of The Bone Sparrow is a surprisingly good representation of the book. The Bone Sparrow tells the story of Subhi, a young boy who has spent his entire life in an immigration detention centre. On page 69 the reader is introduced to Subhi’s friend Eli, ‘strong walking his way back to his tent’, and we get a glimpse of Subhi’s desperate hope for his ‘Someday’ to come: ‘I spend the next five nights watching the sky, watching for those lights to dance. Even though Eli says we can’t see them from here, not ever, Maá always used to tell me that sometimes ‘not ever’ can change’.
We also discover that a girl from the Outside has made her way into the camp, and we meet the rubber Shakespeare Duck, with his self-proclaimed ‘sparkling wit and fascinating conversation’ talking to Subhi. Harvey, one of the few nice guards at the detention centre, is also mentioned, and the reader learns how much Subhi looks up to Harvey.
These are all themes and ideas which resurface towards the end of the story, and the passage about Subhi watching the sky is among some of the first passages I jotted down when Subhi’s character first emerged in my imagination.
I shall never again turn to the first page of a book when deciding whether or not to read on – from now on, it will be page 69 every time.
My Book, The Movie: The Bone Sparrow.
Writers Read: Zana Fraillon.