Will page 99 tests of a novel be more accurate than page 69 tests?

Friday, 1 October, 2010

An indication of a novel’s quality, or otherwise, is said to be ascertained by a reading of the book’s 99th page. If you liked what you saw, then it’s a fair bet you will enjoy the book in its entirety.

But is page 99 a good benchmark? Applying the test to the last few books I read yields, I think, fair results too. Page 99 of Judith Krantz’s Scruples (judge me all you like, I don’t care) is an immediately enjoyable 500 words of frothing 80s madness. Maria McCann’s The Wilding offers an intriguing letter to the protagonist, which fills in some backstory and cannot help but let you know you are in for a Right Good Read. Bleak House still fails, after 18 years of opportunities, to grip my attention. And The Code of the Woosters is, of course, perfect Wodehouse from beginning to end.

This is interesting because a couple of years ago page 69 was where the quality benchmark could be found… what caused it to advance 30 pages?

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