Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"The Delivery Room"

Sylvia Brownrigg is the author of several acclaimed works of fiction: four novels, Morality Tale, The Delivery Room, Pages for You, and The Metaphysical Touch, and a collection of stories, Ten Women Who Shook the World.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Delivery Room, and reported the following:
This is, possibly, cheating—but I applied the page 69 test to my novel The Delivery Room in two different editions of the book.

The Delivery Room is set in London, which helps to explain why it was published in Britain before here in the U.S. (which in turn explains why it is coming out so soon after my comic novel Morality Tale). So I’ve taken a look at page 69 in the U.S. and UK versions.

The novel is the story of a Serbian therapist, Mira Braverman, working in London, and the narrative moves back and forth among different characters: sometimes we see the patients from Mira’s perspective, at others we see her from the patients’ point of view. This allows for complex and at times comical explorations of the perceptions and misperceptions in the therapist-patient relation.

In the UK edition page 69 takes us into a session between Mira and a patient she thinks of as “The American,” an ex-pat who writes a humorous column called “Broad from Abroad” for an English newspaper. We hear Jess trying to explain her feelings about her work—”It’s not that I think it’s worthless, or a waste of time, exactly—I mean, I keep people entertained, I’m smart, they can have a little vicarious glamour through me if I write about bad behavior at some book party or other—”

—At which point Jess stops herself to reflect internally on how that really does make her sound trivial, and to wonder how she could better express it to Mira.

My aim in the novel is to allow each character room for his or her own thoughts, which helps illuminate the gap there often is between how we understand ourselves and how others understand us, a gap that exists even (or perhaps especially?) in “The Delivery Room,” the room where therapy goes on.

In the U.S. edition, page 69 includes Mira’s memories of her country, Serbia. The novel is set in 1998 and 1999, the period that led up to NATO’s bombing of Serbia, and Mira is quietly reflecting on how hard it is to explain to anyone, even her beloved husband Peter, the meanings of the names and places she has left behind.

I think either selection gives a reader a sense of some of the different emotional territories covered in my novel, which was described in the UK as “an outstanding novel—for once, the word ‘unforgettable’ is justified.”
Read an excerpt from The Delivery Room, and learn more about the author and her work at Sylvia Brownrigg's website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue