Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The Wrong Mother"

Sophie Hannah is a bestselling crime fiction writer and poet. Her psychological thrillers include Little Face and Hurting Distance.

She applied the Page 69 Test to The Wrong Mother (UK title: The Point of Rescue), and reported the following:
It's amazing how representative of the novel p. 69 is! Here's the blurb of the book:

Sally is watching the news with her husband when she hears a name she ought not to recognise: Mark Bretherick. Last year, a work trip Sally had planned was cancelled at the last minute. Desperate for a break from her busy life juggling work and a young family, Sally didnt tell her husband that the trip had fallen through. Instead, she booked a week off work and treated herself to a secret holiday. All she wanted was a bit of peace some time to herself but it didnt work out that way. Because Sally met a man: Mark Bretherick.

Now, to Sally's shock, Bretherick is on the news. All the details are the same: where he lives, his job, his wife Geraldine and daughter Lucy. Except that the photograph on the TV screen is of a man Sally has never seen before. And Geraldine and Lucy Bretherick are both dead...

On page 69 of the novel, Sally is telling the reader about her fling with Mark (or rather the man who called himself Mark) at the hotel. All the main themes of the book are present on that page: infidelity, trust, betrayal, perfect and not-so-perfect mothers, men's attitudes to their wives. This page really does give a flavour of the novel as a whole. And there's also a very important plot clue contained here too. I think, on the basis of this evidence, the page 69 test really works!

Page 69:

…coincidence. I told him about my work, which he seemed to find interesting - he asked me lots of questions about it. He mentioned his wife Geraldine all the time and seemed to be very much in love with her. He didn’t say this, but it was clear she was very important to him. In fact, I smiled to myself because, although he was obviously highly intelligent, he was also one of those men who cannot utter a sentence without it containing his wife’s name. If I asked him what he thought about something (as I did many times, not that evening but later, during the course of our week together), he would tell me, and then immediately afterwards he would tell me what Geraldine thought.

I asked if she worked. He told me that for years she ran the IT helpdesk at the Garcia Lorca Institute in Rawndesley, but that she’d always wanted to stop working when she had a child, and so when Lucy was born she did. ‘Lucky her,’ I said. Although I would hate not to work, I felt a pang of envy when it occurred to me how easy and calm Geraldine’s life must be.

On that first night at the bar, Mark Bretherick said one odd thing that stuck in my mind. When I asked him if he thought I was immoral for lying to my husband about where I was, he said, ‘From where I’m sitting, you seem pretty close to perfect.’

I laughed in his face.

‘I’m serious,’ he said. ‘You’re imperfect, and that’s what’s perfect about you. Geraldine’s a perfect wife and mother in the traditional sense, and it sometimes makes me…’ He stopped then and turned the conversation back to me. ‘You’re selfish.’ He said this as if he found it admirable. ‘Practically all you’ve told me tonight is what you need, what you want, how you feel.’

I told him to sod off.

Far from being put off, he said, ‘Listen. Spend the week with me.’ I stared at him, speechless. The week? I’d been…
Learn more about the book and author at Sophie Hannah's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hurting Distance.

The Page 69 Test: Little Face.

My Book, The Movie: Little Face and Hurting Distance.

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

--Marshal Zeringue