Monday, October 5, 2009

"After the Fire, a Still Small Voice"

Evie Wyld grew up in Australia and London, where she currently lives. She received an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, and was featured as one of Granta’s New Voices in May 2008.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, and reported the following:
Amy Blackwell did come again and this time she brought plums. He had been making the curd for a lemon tart, grating in the rind of a green lemon stroke by stroke and tasting in between. When the bell rang he barely broke his rhythm. ‘Beauty,’ he said, as he took the box of plums from her.

‘How’s it goin’?’ she asked.

‘Good,’ he said, this time really looking at the plums, knocking one of them on to its back, feeling it give. They were the dark purple type and he thought of upside-down caramel plum tarts.

He got her some water and, with one hand leaning on the counter, she drained the glass and put it down heavily on the side, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand.

‘How’s school going?’ he asked, as she put down the glass.

‘It’s dumb and nuts,’ she answered, smiling, chewing her spearmint. ‘They reckon they want us to learn how to iron.’

He moved back to the bowl. ‘You’ve come in the nick of time,’ he said. The room was rousing itself into a glow, he felt it at the back of his head, the lightness, the clearing. It made him stand straight, breathe deeply. He picked up a twist of pastry to dip it into the curd and absently wiped a finger round the outside edge of the bowl, collecting a stray thread of yellow that had trailed over the side. He offered her the pastry and the glow off her was sun off water. She leant forward but passed the pastry twist and took the other hand, holding it in both of hers. She put his lemon-covered finger in her mouth, standing on tiptoe over the counter.

The way the landscape and surroundings reflects mood is something that I think happens throughout the book, though usually something a bit more sinister is happening. It’s not so much a book about love as being a book about people loving difficult people. Half of the book takes place with a different character, in more or less present day, out in a remote costal community. This part is from the other strand, in suburban Sydney in the 1950s. I’m pleased to have it as my Page 69, as it shows something a bit nice happening to the character, and it’s quite a pivotal moment for both Leon and Amy.

This page shows the blossoming relationship between two fifteen year olds in 1950s Australia. Amy Blackwell is unusual for her generation, being sexually forward and with a tendency towards boyishness. Leon has just started to see satisfaction in baking well, has just managed to harness some of the craft his father was keen to teach him before he went to fight in Korea. In his father’s absence, Leon is starting to take over at the cake shop he lives in with his family, taking on responsibility, not only of the business but of his mother who is becoming stranger as his father is away longer and longer. From here on in things get much darker.
Read an excerpt from After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, and learn more about the book and author at Evie Wyld's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue