Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"A Thousand Cuts"

Simon Lelic has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

He applied the Page 69 Test to A Thousand Cuts [Rupture, in the UK], his debut novel, and reported the following:
The page 69 test. My mother-in-law, who runs a bookshop, swears by it. Unfortunately, as on so many counts probably, I am afraid I will have disappointed her. Flicking through the novel, I am struggling to identify a page that is any less representative of the rest of the book.

Page 69 of A Thousand Cuts is an anomaly. It drops you into the middle of a telephone conversation and leaves you as disoriented and uniformed as eavesdropping any strangers' conversation would. It is a crossed-line of a page. It doesn't even reveal the names of who is speaking.

As for the conversation itself, this again is thematically incongruous. The novel is about bullying. It centres on a young, female police detective struggling to make sense of a school shooting: not what happened but why. A central, recurring theme is that truth is dependent on point of view, which is partly why the novel is narrated, every second chapter, by a different witness to the original crime. On page 69, however, the conversation is about (failed) relationships. It offers bald facts and cod philosophising. We learn that one woman feels she gets treated like ironmongery: she considers herself her ex-husband's stepladder. And men, she maintains, are like poinsettias. They need attention. They need to feel wanted. It is a generalisation and a lazy one but the statement is not up for debate.

The second woman, the first woman's daughter, is less forthcoming, less forthright. She, as it happens, is Lucia May, the lead character in the book. Again page 69 stands out because it is a rare insight within the novel into the relationships that have defined Lucia. In other scenes, she refuses, mostly, to reveal these. She is afraid, bullied herself, but the last thing she intends to do is admit this. Talking to her mother, it is harder for her to maintain the facade. Which is perhaps why Lucia brings the conversation to an end at the top of page 70.
Read an excerpt from A Thousand Cuts, and learn more about the book and author at Simon Lelic's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue