Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"The Sacrificial Man"

Ruth Dugdall is a British crime writer. She has a degree in English and Theatre Studies from Warwick University and an MA is Social Work at University of East Anglia, and has worked as a probation officer dealing with high-risk criminals for almost a decade. She is the author of The James Version and The Sacrificial Man.

Dugdall applied the Page 69 Test to The Sacrificial Man (UK edition) and reported the following:
Well, now, this is an interesting idea. Turn to page 69 of The Sacrificial Man (UK edition) and see if it represents the whole novel.

My first reaction is that it doesn’t, as in this scene Alice (who we know from Chapter 1 has killed her lover, but with his consent) is delivering a lecture on Keats and romantic poetry. This page gives us a feel for Alice as a character, an insight into her ivory tower, the world that allowed her to see assisted suicide as a romantic, grand gesture.

And then, of course, I realise that in that case p69 sums up the themes of the novel entirely. In fact, the words Alice speaks here when talking could sum up her whole modus operandi:

“A perfect death is a way to cheat the dulling, dumbing effect of time. To die at the height of love is the only way to preserve its purity.”

So thinks Keats, and so believes Alice.

Then, towards the bottom of the page, we meet one of her students, Alex, who is a drug user. Drugs are an important topic in the novel, firstly a way to die, but also a way to distort normality. Alice’s mother’s story is one of drug addiction, and this back story gives the reader a chance to understand Alice, to see beyond her actions and to gain some understanding of her motivations.

And that is why I write; to understand the unthinkable, to make sense of evil. So page 69 is a perfect microcosm, a window onto the world of the novel, and also into the psyche of its author.

I’m left wondering if this was happenchance, or if every page would work in this way. And I like that I don’t know the answer to that.
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Dugdall's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Sacrificial Man.

--Marshal Zeringue