Thursday, October 6, 2022

"Secrets of the Nile"

Tasha Alexander is the author of the New York Times bestselling Lady Emily mystery series.

The daughter of two philosophy professors, she studied English Literature and Medieval History at the University of Notre Dame. She and her husband, novelist Andrew Grant, live on a ranch in southeastern Wyoming.

Alexander applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Secrets of the Nile, the 16th Lady Emily mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69 of Secrets of the Nile:
different for us than it is for other siblings. I feel his pain. I know when he is lonely. I hear his voice in my heart when we are not together. I hear thoughts he will not let himself hear.”

“Don’t tell Sanura any of that. She’ll be more convinced than ever that you’re dabbling in evil magic.”

“There’s no magic involved,” I said.

“You’ve always held on to things too tightly, Meryt. Now it’s time to let go. Bek will always be your brother. Your twin. But what that means as adults is different from what it meant when you were children.”

“If I had children of my own it would be easier.”

“If you had children of your own, nothing would be easier.” Tey had five, so she would know. “You’d be eternally exhausted, fat, and cranky. And your loving husband would morph into someone unrecognizable.”

“Surely it’s not that bad.”

“No, it’s not that bad. Not all the time, anyway. I’m told romance can return when the children are grown.”

“I see how Raneb looks at you. There’s plenty of romance still there.”

“You’re right about that. Otherwise the babies wouldn’t keep coming, would they?” We both laughed. The hurt of not having children had long since dulled for me, but it would never disappear altogether.

“I know I’m overreacting to Bek’s marriage. Sometimes it’s so hard to keep my emotions neatly boxed the way I want them to be.”

“Focus on your art, Meryt. That’s where all your outsized emotions will flourish. It will purge from you the pain of feeling them. They’ll leave your heart and become embedded in your work, which will give other people, who feel these things almost without knowing it, the gift of beginning to recognize their own sensations when they look at your sculptures.”

“That sounds an awful lot like evil magic.”
I’ve found that the Page 69 Test is frequently an excellent way to get a sense of a book, but, sadly, it doesn’t work so well for Secrets of the Nile. There are two timelines in the book: the primary one set in 1904 Luxor; the other in Deir el-Medina, a workers’ village outside the Valley of the Kings, during the reign of Ramses II. Page 69 takes place in the latter and is critical to the ancient storyline. It illustrates essential aspects of the narrator’s relationship with her twin brother, deals with the disappointment of not having children, addresses her struggles with her sister-in-law, hints at the significance of art in her life, and suggests the trouble suspicions of magic can bring. Page 69 absolutely gives an accurate sense of Meryt’s story. However, because it entirely excludes the 1904 storyline, which is the bulk of the novel, it can’t give the reader an accurate sense of the novel as a whole. Were page 69 set in 1904, the test might have worked, particularly if it had the 1904 characters discussing ancient history. That said, they are never entirely aware of how their present is tied to Meryt’s past. Maybe the structure of this book means that no matter what fell on page 69, the test wouldn’t work.
Visit Tasha Alexander's website.

Q&A with Tasha Alexander.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Heart of Florence.

Writers Read: Tasha Alexander.

--Marshal Zeringue