Friday, June 4, 2021

"Lizzie and Dante"

Mary Bly is a New York Times bestselling author under the name Eloisa James, and chair of the English department at Fordham University. She lives with her family in New York City, but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight.

Bly applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Lizzie and Dante, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“I’m going to the movies with Lucia tonight. Her mom is taking us to Portoferraio. I’ll sleep over.”

Babbo groaned.

Etta grinned at him. “I put the speaker on the windowsill over here. The playlist is on your cell, named ‘Lizzie.’ Don’t forget to turn it on.”

She managed to avoid his swat and ran away laughing.
Page 69 is the tail-end of a chapter written in 12-year-old Etta’s voice. Brief as it is, it speaks to an important thread in Lizzie and Dante: Etta’s guarded but fierce desire for a mother. On finding out that her father (“babbo” in Florentine dialect) has asked Lizzie for dinner, Etta sets the stage for a private dinner, ala Parent Trap.

One of the questions the novel asks is whether a person with limited time should become a mother. Is it better to have no mother, or one for a few months, or perhaps years? Is love—whether for a partner or child—worth fighting for, if limited?

The Hallmark card answer would suggest it is, but the truth is more complicated. Etta has cued up Leonard Cohen on that playlist, so I’ll end with Leonard’s question: “Will you consent to be wrecked, a thousand kisses deep?”
Visit Mary Bly/Eloisa James's website.

--Marshal Zeringue