Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Conrad & Eleanor"

Jane Rogers has published eight novels, written original television and radio drama, and adapted work for radio and TV. Her last book, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, was the 2012 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction; it was also longlisted for the Booker Prize. She has won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Writers’ Guild Best Fiction Book, has been a finalist for the Guardian Fiction Prize, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is Professor of Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, and she lives in Banbury, England.

Rogers applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Conrad & Eleanor, and reported the following:
Page 69 follows a conversation between Conrad and his mother on the evening of his father’s suicide. Conrad is not close to his parents but his mother phoned him when she found her husband’s body. Now an ambulance has taken him away, and Conrad and his mother sit over the remains of their supper and Conrad attempts to uncover the motive for his father’s taking his own life. His mother is dry-eyed and sharp-tongued, and highly critical of Conrad and his sister:
‘There’s a lot you don’t know. He would have walked barefoot to China for you two.’

Con pours himself another whisky. His father has killed himself and it is his fault. ‘Did he talk to anyone about – his money troubles?’

‘Who would he talk to?’

Nobody. He was a friendless man – no social skills. ‘D’you think he was depressed?’

‘Of course he was depressed. What’d he got to look forward to? His own grandchildren don’t know him, the farm’s losing money, how long till we get turfed out and dumped in a home?’

‘His grandchildren do know him. Did know him.’

Con’s mother humphs. ‘They saw him twice a year. More interested in the lambs than him, more interested in shrieking and running amok.’

It is true that something gets into the kids when they visit the farm. Maybe it’s the space and the dilapidated state of the place, but they do tear about, their calling voices echoing across the yard. And of course they avoid his father; what child wouldn’t avoid a man who pinches your cheek too hard and bellows, ‘You need to get more pudding down you!’?
This is a book about marriage and parenthood, so of course this is representative; yet it is the only scene where Con’s mother appears, since the bulk of the book concerns the marriage of Conrad and Eleanor. The scene helps us to understand why Conrad has chosen to be such a hands-on father, himself – in reaction against his own father.
Visit Jane Rogers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue