Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joanne Rendell's "Crossing Washington Square"

Joanne Rendell's debut novel, The Professors’ Wives’ Club, was published in 2008.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her newly released second novel, Crossing Washington Square, and reported the following:
Crossing Washington Square tells the story of two very different women and their very different love of books. Rachel Grey and Diana Monroe are professors at the old boys club of Manhattan University. While this should create a kinship between them, they are very much at odds. Rachel is young, emotional, and impulsive. She wrote a book about women’s book groups which got her a slot on Oprah and she uses “chick lit” in her classes. Diana is aloof, icy, and controlled. She’s also a scholar of Sylvia Plath who thinks “beach” fiction is an easy ride for students. They really do not get along!

Page 99 of the novel only contains a few lines, but concludes a very dramatic scene and offers turning point in the novel for the character Diana. Although she is rigorous in her work and has great poise, control, and grace as a teacher, Diana is also hurting, vulnerable, and confused. Five years ago her wealthy blue-blood husband left her for a younger woman and since then she’s vowed to leave men out of her life. The only thing is, in recent months, she’s allowed herself to get involved with the English department’s computer technician, Mikey. They have nothing in common. She has a season ticket to the opera, while he loves Johnny Cash. Yet she can’t seem to stop their secret and very loving affair. And then, to make things worse an old grad school friend, the brilliant, sophisticated, and handsome Carson McEvoy, is visiting from Harvard. In his usual flirtatious manner, he is trying to woo Diana. Never before has she succumbed to Carson’s charms, but her life seems such a mess at the moment that she ends up going out with Carson, drinking too much (very rare for Diana), and then heading back to Carson’s place. When she gets there however, she’s in for a shock. Outside his door, she spots Mikey. Not just Mikey, but Mikey in the arms of Rachel Grey – the new professor in her department who she really doesn’t like.

From p.99:

“No one spoke until Diana pulled her hand from Carson’s grasp, turned on her heel, and began striding away.

“Diana!” two male voices called out.

But she didn’t stop. If Diana stopped, her stomach – which suddenly felt as if it had been turned inside out and pummeled with a huge fist – was sure to spill its wine-soaked contents onto the sidewalk. She had to keep walking.”
Learn more about the book and author at Joanne Rendell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Professors' Wives' Club.

--Marshal Zeringue