Wednesday, February 7, 2024

"The Road from Belhaven"

Margot Livesey was born and grew up on the edge of the Scottish Highlands. She is the author of a collection of stories and nine other novels, including Eva Moves the Furniture, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, and The Boy in the Field. She has received awards from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is on the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Livesey applied the Page 69 Test to The Road from Belhaven, her tenth novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 in The Road from Belhaven is the opening of chapter V. Lizzie’s older sister Kate has got married. “Once again there were only three places at the table, and her grandparents, from one day to the next, grew older. Rab used his arms to push himself out of his chair; Flora stooped even when empty-handed. Most days, Lizzie visited Lilac Cottage, but she was still in the world of childhood.”

The page goes on to show Lizzie talking to her sister and realizing that Kate is in the family way.

Someone opening The Road from Belhaven to page 69 would get a good sense of the rural world of the novel - it’s set in 1880s Scotland - and of Lizzie’s loneliness. A reader would also hopefully understand how little she knows about sex. Despite growing up on a farm, her sister’s pregnancy is a surprise to Lizzie.

The reader would not learn the crucial fact that Lizzie sometimes sees the future but can never change it.

It’s interesting that the Page 69 Test works so well but, happily, doesn’t give away everything about the novel. I like the idea of certain themes running like dark rivers beneath the quotidian, surfacing occasionally.
Visit Margot Livesey's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Flight of Gemma Hardy.

The Page 69 Test: Mercury.

Q&A with Margot Livesey.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy in the Field.

--Marshal Zeringue