Monday, August 25, 2014

"A Song for Issy Bradley"

Carys Bray completed an M.A. in creative writing at Edge Hill University in 2010. That same year she won the M.A. category of the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story, and her stories have since been published in a variety of literary magazines. She was awarded the Scott Prize for her debut collection, Sweet Home. She lives in Southport, England, with her husband and four children.

Bray applied the Page 69 Test to A Song for Issy Bradley, her first novel, and reported the following:
Is page 69 representative of the rest of the book?

Page 69 is the saddest part of the novel. Issy Bradley is desperately ill and her parents Claire and Ian are at her bedside. Claire is beginning to come to terms with the fact that Issy is unlikely to get better, but Ian is determinedly optimistic.

While it’s an important scene, I wouldn’t say it’s representative of the novel as a whole. Despite the fact that A Song for Issy Bradley is about what happens following the death of a child, it’s also a funny book - life doesn’t stop after Issy dies. Older sister Zipporah falls in love for the first time, brother Alma gets himself in a terrible mess when he ‘borrows’ a roll of bank notes and little Jacob Bradley hatches an impossible to plan to fix his family.

Would a reader skimming that page be inclined to read on?

I hope so. Nick Hornby wrote a very generous review in The Believer. He noted the novel’s initial sadness but went on to say, ‘I loved A Song for Issy Bradley. It’s wry, smart, human, and, rather miraculously, avoids mawkishness.’

I’d advise a prospective reader to also browse page 169. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the resurrection of a goldfish (the one depicted on the cover) and contrasts nicely with the sadness of page 69.
‘I think it’s best to give her more time.’ Ian looks to Claire for support. ‘Give her a chance to turn the corner.’

‘Mr Bradley, the septicaemia is progressing and –’

‘You see children on television who’ve had their fingers and toes amputated - whole legs, hands, even arms - don’t you?’

‘Yes, you do.’ Dr Sabzwari says it so kindly and regretfully that Claire knows she is going to follow up with something awful. ‘But you almost never see children at this stage of the disease make a recovery. Isabel’s blood pressure is low which means there’s poor blood flow to her major organs and poor blood flow to the brain causes brain damage. I think we’re approaching the stage where we need to talk about what happens next.’

Claire looks from Doctor Sabzwari to Ian. ‘Do you you think we could talk about this in the morning?’ she asks. ‘Our other children, we need to talk to them, they should be here...’

Ian grabs her hand and squeezes hard and she realises he thinks she’s prevaricating, holding out for a miracle, too.
Visit Carys Bray's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Song for Issy Bradley.

--Marshal Zeringue