Saturday, November 13, 2021

"The Dare"

Lesley Kara was born and grew up in Chelmsford, Essex.

On moving to London, she worked as a secretary before completing an English degree and PGCE at Greenwich University.

She then became a lecturer and manager in Further Education.

She is an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course and now lives on the north Essex coast where she writes full-time.

Kara applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, The Dare, and reported the following:
From page 69:
I tiptoe downstairs and rummage in the bottom of my bag. I need to get this pregnancy test done and find out one way or the other.

The light’s been left on in the study, so I go in and sit on the leather swivel chair to read the instructions, trying my best to ignore the faint but lingering scent of coconut. Ross’s Mac whirs into life. I must have accidentally leaned on the keyboard as I spread the leaflet out.

I stare at the screen, my eyes stuck fast to the headline of an all-too-familiar news article. So this is why he was so long coming to bed. He’s been googling the accident.

The distraught parents of 13-year-old Alice Dawson, killed by a train on an open crossing that traverses the Garleywood Public Footpath in Garleywood Tippet, have told of their heartbreak at losing their precious daughter.

“Alice’s death has devastated our family,’ says Mick Dawson….”
It’s an interesting exercise to look at just one page of a novel to see what it might reveal about the book as a whole. Reading page 69 of The Dare again, it strikes me that while it might introduce a casual browser to the main character Lizzie, it doesn’t reference anywhere that she suffers from epilepsy, an important fact that permeates the entire novel.

It’s clear from this page that Lizzie thinks she may be pregnant and that she’s about to do a test to find out one way or the other, but then she is distracted by what she sees on her fiancĂ© Ross’s screen - a news article about the tragic death of a thirteen-year-old girl called Alice Dawson. Someone turning to this page without knowing what preceded it, or without having read the novel’s blurb, would not be aware that Alice was Lizzie’s childhood friend, and that Lizzie was there at the time of her death. Nor would they be aware that Lizzie cannot remember the details of what happened because she suffered a major seizure which affected her memory, and that sometimes she wonders whether she might have been responsible for her friend’s death.

What is obvious from this passage, is that Ross wants to know more about what happened. He’s interested enough to search online for old news articles rather than asking Lizzie direct. Prior to this scene, Lizzie has just told Ross what happened for the very first time and she’s only done this because of a visitor who came to their housewarming party. (It is this visitor whose coconut scent still lingers in the study). Maybe this is why Ross is so curious. Or maybe he doesn’t believe that Lizzie is entirely innocent!

The novel is told through two separate timelines: one, as in the case of page 69, is Lizzie as an adult woman, confronted with the trauma of her past, and the other is Lizzie as a thirteen-year-old girl, both before and immediately after Alice’s death. So in some ways, this page gives a snapshot of the two narratives and as such, could be said to do a reasonable job of capturing the essence of the novel.
Visit Lesley Kara's website.

Q&A with Lesley Kara.

--Marshal Zeringue