Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Studio Saint-Ex"

Ania Szado graduated from the Ontario College of Art and the University of British Columbia. Her first novel, Beginning of Was, was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her writing has appeared in numerous periodicals, including The Globe and Mail, Flare, and This Magazine.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Studio Saint-Ex, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Studio Saint-Ex isn't quite representative of the novel—it makes no reference to the French author-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or to The Little Prince, which he is writing in my historical novel—but it provides a glimpse into some of the concerns that tormented Saint-Exupéry when he was living in 1940s New York.

The page captures part of a conversation between two fictional characters: fashion designer Mignonne, who falls for Saint-Exupéry and takes liberties with his work, and Mig's unscrupulous boss, Madame Fiche.

The two designers have been duped by a new client's former couturier, Vaudoit. While blaming Mig for exacerbating the situation, Madame claims that Vaudoit's motivations were political. The WWII capitulation of France has led to a deep rift in Manhattan's elite French expat community, deepening Saint-Exupéry's resolve to return to active participation in the war.

The excerpt includes a small but significant turning point for Mig. She takes the reins to force a solution, foreshadowing the point at which she will take control of Saint-Exupéry's images and story to try to save him and his creative work from disaster—and to keep her own career prospects alive.

Madame's voice continues from page 68:
"Vaudoit must be a Gaullist. It is this, above all, that sets him against me. As a point of honor, he must ensure my failure. I should have seen it. It is my own fault."

Madame bent forward in her chair as though she were in pain—or perhaps her script was written on her low-heeled, black shoes. "And your fault, Mignonne, even more so. You compound the failure, and I must carry it on my shoulders. Tomorrow, I tell Mrs. Brossard that due to your ineptitude, I have been unable to complete her coat on time. I will lose yet another client. You will have taken me, in four months, from Women's Wear Daily to a new level of defeat."

My mind was finally coming awake. "No." Fault or not, I would not let Madame think I had failed. "I'll make a new muslin tonight."

She gave me a baleful look. "And waste yet more fabric?"

"It will fit, I promise you. You can judge tomorrow if it's worth going forward with the coat. Go home now, Madame. In the morning, we'll cut the client's fabric. In the afternoon, we'll sew."
Mig pulls it off here, but it's a much taller order to stop a determined, patriotic pilot-author from returning to war-torn skies, or to find a way to use his writing to save his own life and capture his heart.
Learn more about the book and author at Ania Szado's website.

--Marshal Zeringue