Tuesday, June 4, 2019

"Dawson's Fall"

Roxana Robinson is the author of ten books - six novels, three collections of short stories, and the biography of Georgia O’Keeffe. Four of these were chosen as New York Times Notable Books, two as New York Times Editors’ Choices.

Robinson applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Dawson's Fall, and reported the following:
Page 69 is taken from Sarah Morgan Dawson’s actual Civil War diary, written in Baton Rouge. It starts off when the town had been taken by Federal troops, quartered on a gunship, lying at anchor in the river. Sarah is at home, with her mother and sisters Lilly and Miriam. Her father and one brother have died; the women are on their own.
May 30, 1862 Wednesday…we rose very early, and had breakfast sooner than usual, it would seem for the express design of becoming famished before dinner. I picked up some of my letters and papers, and set them where I could find them whenever we were ready to go to [the summer cabin] at Greenwell..I was packing up my traveling desk…and saying to myself that my affairs were in such confusion that if obliged to run unexpectedly I would not know what to save, when I heard Lily’s voice down stairs crying as she ran in- she had been out shopping - “Mr. Castle has killed a Federal officer on a ship, and they are going to shell -” Bang! went a cannon at the word, and that was all our warning.

Mother had just come in, and was lying down, but sprang to her feet and added her screams to the general confusion. Miriam…ran up to quiet her, Lilly gathered her children crying hysterically all the time, and ran to the front door with them as they were…I bethought me of my “running” bag which had used on a former case, and in a moment my few precious articles were secured under my hoops, and with a sunbonnet on, stood ready for anything.
The page both is and is not representative - it takes place twenty years earlier than most of the narrative, which is set in 1889. But it’s representative in that it gives an idea of the conditions of her life, during the war, how suddenly things happened, how the fact of uncertainty and anxiety affect people, what it means, as a practical matter to a household, to be under fire. What happens to the women and children, the final targets of war. What the imminent present of death does to the character.
Learn more about the book and author at Roxana Robinson’s website.

My Book, The Movie: Dawson's Fall.

--Marshal Zeringue