Page 69, revisited

Remember the Page 69 test? It’s where you:

Turn to page 69 of any book and read it. If you like that page, buy the book. It works.

Marshall McLuhan, quoted in ‘How To Read A Novel’ by John Sutherland

Last time round, I put both my existing books through the test, showed you what would have been page 69 had The Real World gone to print as it stood, and promised to be back ‘in a few months’ with the final page 69.

Well, just over a year later, here we are.

Page of a book. The text is transcribed below.

… make a great sermon illustration. You could demonstrate a miracle.’

Lydia sniggered. ‘And I noticed they weren’t using actual custard. Does actual custard not work? Or is it too expensive to make a whole paddling pool full?’

Colette thought about it. ‘Do you know, I’m not sure. The egg might do something weird…’ She frowned at her diagram: she’d missed a bond somewhere. When she next looked at the screen, an Asian woman was talking enthusiastically about the properties of wood. Barry did not appear again.


‘Are you up to anything interesting today?’ Colette asked the next morning.

‘Not at work. But I’m going to have lunch with Felicity, and bring her up to date with all the discernment stuff.’

‘Ah.’ Colette felt faintly put out. It wasn’t really fair, she knew: Felicity had as much right as anybody to know what was going on in Lydia’s life, and more than most. Felicity had been the one who had started all this, had been the one to say to Lydia, ‘So have you ever thought about ordination?’

‘Is that OK? I did mention it a few days ago.’

Colette remembered, and quashed an irrational surge of resentment. Why shouldn’t Lydia talk to Felicity? Why shouldn’t she let off steam? Why shouldn’t she complain to Felicity about the arcane processes of their Church, and the fact that she wouldn’t be getting married any time soon? ‘You did. It’s fine. Are you still going to want dinner when you get home?’

Lydia stretched up to kiss her cheek. ‘If you’re cooking.’

It was her turn. ‘I’ll sort something out.’


It was a grey day, and colder outside than it looked. Colette regretted walking up to campus, but told herself that waiting for the bus on Southview would be even colder. She buttoned her coat up to…

Well, other than the fact that this one also begins and ends mid-sentence, I think it works better than the previous page 69. It’s more representative. We get a hint of Colette’s academic trials (Barry, who has just pulled a disappearing act, is her PhD supervisor) and also see her being more absorbed than strictly necessary in an intriguing but unimportant question; we do get the Church of England and the discernment process this time. We lose James, but we gain Felicity. (They’re both new supporting characters, and I’m quite fond of both of them.) There’s also more of a sense of place, which is something I’ve been working on quite a bit lately.

If you preferred the previous page 69, well, it’s all still there. It’s just on page 76 now. And I’ve replaced [thing] with spike.

If you like it, buy the book, says Marshall McLuhan. Well, you’ll be able to do that in just under a month. If you want a reminder on the day, sign up for my newsletter.

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