Monday, April 22, 2013

"The Movement of Stars"

Amy Brill is a writer and producer who has worked for PBS and MTV, and has been awarded fellowships by the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the Millay Colony, and the American Antiquarian Society, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Movement of Stars, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Hannah stayed next to the telescope for more than an hour, checking periodically like a mother with a feverish child, but the stars and everything else in the firmament ticked by invisibly. There was barely any wind, nothing to suggest an imminent change in the weather. A film of despair began to settle in her, lightly, like an illness just taking hold, as she contemplated her father’s decision. There was nothing she could do to alter it, short of attaching herself permanently to a male—any male—who would contract to marry her.

The idea that she had always been powerless over her own future, but not realized it, was excruciating. She’d been propelled toward mastery—over her emotions, over her equations, of the biggest and most minute parts of the Universe—for her entire life. Dr. Hall had demanded rigor, his teaching method requiring total expertise on one level before advancement to the next. Fractions came before geometry; simple maths before logarithms and algebraic equations. Until tonight, she thought she’d understood the rules that governed her life as well: work hard, sweep the skies, seek a contribution. Be rewarded. How could she have made so great a miscalculation?

Grinding her teeth, Hannah peered through the telescope again, desperate for something else to focus on. This time she didn’t hear the door to the walk open or close. When she heard Isaac’s deep voice at close range, she gasped, clapping her hand to her chest while trying to catch her breath.
Page 69, as it happens, is representative of my novel in that it encapsulates Hannah’s devotion to astronomy and her frustration at the limitations imposed upon her advancement by a society in which she couldn’t go to college, vote, hold office, hold property, or even hold a job outside of teaching or domestic work. Here, she’s doing her best to gain a foothold in the (male) astronomy community of her day by searching the night skies in search of an elusive comet. If she is the first to spot and report a new one, she can win a medal from the King of Denmark and—more importantly—the respect of her peers. The arrival of Isaac Martin—a black whaler from Azores who she is tutoring in celestial navigation—at the end of this page is fortuitous, because his appearance in Hannah’s life does both frighten and exhilarate her, as their deepening relationship fractures the stability of her life, from her beliefs to her standing in her close-knit Quaker community. All in all, page 69 passes the test! At least for these purposes. Whether it passes your test as a reader is, of course, entirely up to you.
Learn more about the book and author at Amy Brill's website.

--Marshal Zeringue