Sunday, January 17, 2021

"A Splendid Ruin"

Megan Chance is the bestselling, critically acclaimed author of several novels. Her books have been picks for Amazon Book of the Month, IndieNext, and the Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice. Booklist calls her writing “provocative and haunting.”

Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Splendid Ruin, and reported the following:
From page 69:
It seemed that nearly everyone in San Francisco had the idea to go to the Cliff House that Sunday—or to the enormous, Grecian-styled Sutro Baths nearby. The oceanside highway had been lively with horses and carriages, other bicyclists, and automobiles, and now they crowded the entrance. Men in their driving and bicycling caps dallied on the huge porch, women with colorful parasols and scarves and tams and, yes, one or two in bloomers.

“We need a table at the west windows,” Goldie said as we went inside. “I want May to see the view.”

The hall was long, the woodwork gleaming, the decor elegant, beautiful, and soothing. Places like this accentuated how truly the Sullivan house unsettled, that a resort should feel more like home.

Pillars punctuated the dining room, which was tastefully ornamented with palms and ferns and hanging lamps. It was indeed crowded, but we were seated promptly at a white-clothed table next to a window overlooking a veranda and the Pacific Ocean. Talk, silver clinking against plate, and the wonderful smells of food and smoke and that underlying, ever-present scent of the sea only added to the stunning view.

“Don’t you love it, May?” Goldie asked. “Aren’t you glad you’re here instead of gloomy old Brooklyn?”

“You know I am. How many times must I say it?”
Page 69 of A Splendid Ruin shows the protagonist, May Kimble, her rich cousin Goldie Sullivan, and two friends at the famous Cliff House in San Francisco, a famous society restaurant on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

The scene sets a normal Society Sunday—a world to which May has only recently been introduced, and so this is all very new to her. While the McLuhan test gives you an idea of the book’s atmosphere, it really gives you no sense of the foreboding or impending doom and disaster which permeates the book. The novel feels fairly light and inconsequential here, with not much indication of the story’s darkness or its themes of betrayal and revenge.

I think it gives you a good idea of the writing itself, however. This is also the page that sets up the reader for the introduction of two important plot points: on page 70 we are introduced to Ellis Farge, a mysterious architect who shows May dreams she hasn’t even realized she’s had, and to Steven Oelrichs, who is a clue to the strange goings-on at the Sullivan House. So while page 69 reveals little more than atmosphere, it does serve as a crucial framing, and gives a sense of the fairy-tale world in which May finds herself, which soon (this is not a spoiler) becomes something much more terrifying.
Visit Megan Chance's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Splendid Ruin.

--Marshal Zeringue