Friday, March 4, 2011

"The Old Romantic"

Louise Dean's novels include Becoming Strangers, which was awarded the Betty Trask Prize in 2004 and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, This Human Season, and The Idea of Love. She lives in Kent, England.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Old Romantic, and reported the following:
Page 69 dwells on a rather minor theme on the book but one which may appeal, given its a very common preoccupation. Looks and how to lose them - casually, quickly, slowly, graciously or very begrudgingly. I think most of us choose the latter. On this page, Astrid, the beautician, suggests she lost her looks one day last November, and gives in evidence her crows feet. With amiable indifference, her partner Nick, suggests they show only when she smiles, which she retorts is one way to make sure she doesn’t. Astrid is full of insecurity as she approaches forty and this is relieved somewhat in the book when she realizes that Nick - hoorah for manhood!- is either so self absorbed or short sighted that he doesn’t notice whether she’s wearing make up or not. She realizes that ‘Nothing can be perfect; only misery’.... and when she understands how much he loves her, she goes to her beauty salon and assembles the other beauticians, calling them forth from the treatment rooms, in a scene reminiscent of Jesus and the fishes and loaves, to give them donuts.
....notwithstanding the poor woman on her knees with her eyes screwed shut, holding the paper knickers up her crack in the waxing room, ready for part two of the Brazilian.

‘She wanted to tell them, There’s more to life than beauty. But they were young and there was a time for everything. For now all she said was, Help yourselves.

Downstairs, in the plasterboard-partitioned treatment rooms, on towel-clad gurneys, women lay pending beauty. Immobile, cotton pads on eyelids with lashes tinting, fingers splayed with varnish drying, face masks congealing, they lay still as still, breathing slow.’
And that scene parodies an earlier scene, set in the morgue.

For in this book, my octogenarian who thinks he’s dying, like Astrid, realizes there’s more to life, and gets busy living. Which is far harder to do, in writing and in life. And honesty’s really the least of it. Doing it with humour’s the thing.
Learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Louise Dean's website.

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

--Marshal Zeringue