Monday, April 19, 2010

"Beautiful Assassin"

Michael White's novels include the New York Times Notable Book A Brother’s Blood and two Connecticut Book of the Year finalists, The Garden of Martyrs and Soul Catcher. He is the director of Fairfield University’s MFA program in creative writing.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Beautiful Assassin, and reported the following:
Page 69 from Beautiful Assassin:
Sometimes even, during quiet moments like these after a long, hard day of battle, I’d try convince myself that what I felt for Kolia was, indeed, love, at least a form of love, that the war had somehow distorted everything, twisted my feelings all about, drained me of my ability to feel anything. Or sometimes, I wondered, what was love anyway. Hadn’t my mother warned me about my silly romantic notions, that love didn’t put a roof over your head or comfort you in old age? What would its absence really matter after such a terrible thing as this war? Kolia and I had been good friends, we would be good friends again. We would comfort each other. I would read my poetry to him, and we would listen to the music student Kovalesky’s cello strains floating upwards into our apartment (though, of course, all that was gone, our apartment building, all of Kiev). We would take long walks along the river, both of us secretly imagining Masha holding our hands, our love for her and our shared pain over her absence binding us together as love never had. At night, I pictured Kolia and I clutching each other like a pair of frightened children, until we fell asleep. For each, the presence of the other would soften loss, would help us to forget all the death that we’d seen, all the death we’d caused. I’d promised myself that I would remain loyal to him and his soothing love would sustain us both. Perhaps, I told myself, I hadn’t really known how to love before the war. Perhaps whatever I’d thought was missing from our life together then would somehow seem inconsequential after all of this. And perhaps, as Zoya said, some night we would come together in our terrible loneliness and need, and begin another life.
The above excerpt from my novel Beautiful Assassin captures the essence of the novel, a story about war and one woman’s struggle to survive it not only physically by emotionally and psychically. The novel is about the life of a famous Soviet female sniper in WWII, Tat’yana Levchenko, a heroic woman who has lost her child to the Germans and now contemplates what her world, and her own life, might be like after the war. The passage talks about what the war has done to her, how it has distorted her feelings, perhaps even those of love for her husband. Tat’yana feels that perhaps with a new-found love for each other, she and her husband will be able to comfort each other over the loss of her child, and perhaps might even be able to start over, both in their love for each other and by having more children. The excerpt also raises the question of loyalty, both the loyalty that Tat’yana has for her husband and as well as the question of loyalty to one’s country. Later in the novel, when Tat’yana is invited to come to the US, both of those loyalties will be supremely tested.
Browse inside Beautiful Assassin, and learn more about the book and author at Michael C. White's website and blog.

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

--Marshal Zeringue