Monday, April 4, 2022

"Delphine Jones Takes a Chance"

Beth Morrey‘s work has been published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies and shortlisted for the Grazia Orange First Chapter competition. She lives in London with her family and Polly the dog.

Morrey's debut novel is The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Morrey applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Delphine Jones Takes a Chance, and reported the following:
From page 69:
…something sickly alcoholic, we danced some more but by then the floor was sticky underfoot, and I didn’t want him to walk me home because I ashamed of our shabby basement flat when he lived in a big house on the edge of the park. But none of that mattered, when I could lie in bed later, winding a snaky curl around my finger, glorying in the image of us trussed together in the shadow of the library.

Teenagers sneak and mumble and avoid, but there was always a moment when you just wanted to cast off the cloak and be seen and heard. I really wanted to tell someone about that night, that perfect night, when everything went right. Not Sheba or Marni, because my interactions with them were always laced with sarcasm, loaded with studied nonchalance. Someone who would really listen, squeeze my hand tight and say, It sounds like he’s really into you! but follow it up with You will be careful, won’t you? There was no one to say it, which was maybe why I wasn’t careful at all, why I thought the golden glow would last, and cocoon me. So I didn’t shade my eyes, checking for pitfalls. I just blundered into the light, not looking where I was going, dazzled and entirely blind.
I’m fascinated by this format. It works! Page 69 of Delphine Jones Takes a Chance is brief – it ends a chapter so only takes up half a page. And yet that page is so revealing.

The passage recounts a key episode in Delphine’s romantic history, detailing an encounter with her first boyfriend Adam– a relationship that impacts on her whole existence, or so she believes. It highlights the fact that she is lacking emotional support, with both parents absent. It reveals an important theme of the book, which is class – Adam’s background is privileged, whereas Delphine always struggled for money and was denied opportunities as a result. And it foreshadows the derailment of Delphine’s life aged sixteen – the book is about how she comes back from that.

The final sentence on the page indirectly references a Plato quote about bewilderments of the eye – how going into the light, or coming out of it, can be equally disorienting. Delphine is scared of taking a chance, of risking going out into the open and broadening her horizons, in case it goes wrong, and she has to retreat again. The quote is used in the introduction to Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, which Delphine reads – she sees herself as the protagonist Charlie Gordon, her mind opening up, but in danger of being closed down.

There’s a later line of dialogue, uttered by Delphine’s friend Letty: ‘what are we but a series of evolutions?’ I think if I had to choose just one line that sums up the book then it would be that. But second place could go to ‘there was always a moment when you wanted to cast off the cloak and be seen and heard.’ The book is all about Delphine daring to cast off the cloak.
Visit Beth Morrey's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Beth Morrey & Polly.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

My Book, The Movie: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Q&A with Beth Morrey.

--Marshal Zeringue