Tuesday, April 11, 2023

"The Lioness of Boston"

Emily Franklin is the author of more than twenty novels and a poetry collection, Tell Me How You Got Here. Her award-winning work has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Guernica, JAMA, and numerous literary magazines as well as long-listed for the London Sunday Times Short Story Award, featured and read aloud on NPR and named notable by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Franklin applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Lioness of Boston, and reported the following:
On page 69 of The Lioness of Boston, we find Isabella Stewart Gardner, pregnant and wishing she were able to leave the house to visit the new Boston society of natural history, which she has watched being built over the previous months. On this page, she is finding solace in plants, and — rather unusually — she is digging in the dirt, putting plants into tea cups when her father-in-law arrives and finds her crouched and covered in dirt, which was very unsuitable for a society woman in the mid-1800s in Boston.

This page is not particularly demonstrative of the larger story. However, strangely, on the next page, page 70, there are two lines that work quite well in that regard. Her father-in-law asks, given her disheveled state, and the way she is choosing to put plants in tea cups, if perhaps Isabella "has a bit of the artist in her." "I shook my head. I think people use that word when someone is unpredictable or outspoken." Her father-in-law goes on to say he meant it a compliment. This is essentially what Isabella comes to figure out for herself as the book progresses.

While Isabella Stewart Gardner was not an artist herself, she had an artistic vision. She was also a misfit in a society, and prone to outspokenness and opinion, which was not looked upon kindly by Boston's elite. Eventually, both in her life, and in my novel, she finds her intellectual footing and embraces her artistic vision as a collector and someone who wants art to be available and accessible to everyone, culminating in her building the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Visit Emily Franklin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue