Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"Beautiful Exiles"

Meg Waite Clayton's novels include the Langum Prize honored The Race for Paris and The Wednesday Sisters, one of Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Essential Best Friend Novels of all time (on a list with The Three Musketeers!) and The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction (now the PEN/Bellwether).

She applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Beautiful Exiles, and reported the following:
The page 69 exercise is always such fun! Page 69 [below left; click to enlarge] of Beautiful Exiles, my new novel about the relationship between war journalist Martha Gellhorn and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, is a bit atypical. The book is written in scenes, but this page is introducing Ginny Cowles, who becomes one of Martha’s best friends. In real life, the two friends go on to write a play together in the years after Beautiful Exiles ends.

And yet! The voice on this page is the voice of Martha—very smart and spunky and full of unusual and lively word choices, and a little insecure. It’s a voice I steep myself in by reading pretty much everything I could find written by her before I wrote the books: her letters, her novels, her war reporting, her memoirs.

It touches on Martha’s internal demon, an insecurity that has roots in her judgmental father.

And it addresses some of the very important themes of the book. Martha, even in her few words of description of this friend, raises both the particular challenges women journalists face, and the importance of what journalists do. Ginny, in “capitalizing on her smooth brown hair,” is “just doing what we all did, using whatever advantage we had to get a story that ought to be told.”

And it raises for the first time a very interesting quirk of Ernest Hemingway’s, which is that while he went to cover war, he never would go to the hospitals to visit the wounded. Martha always went to the hospitals. I’ll leave the reader to read the rest of the novel to see what that difference means.
Visit Meg Waite Clayton's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Four Ms. Bradwells.

The Page 69 Test: The Wednesday Daughters.

--Marshal Zeringue