Who knows when our lives will feel ‘normal’ again? I suspect that there are certain things we will never, ever take for granted in the future. A drink with friends – a hug with an older relative – a trip to a beautiful art gallery or museum – travelling to visit family. It’s good to be reminded that these things are wonderful, important, nurturing – and fragile.
I believe that all the writing courses I was due to run early this year will have to be cancelled. The talks and presentations to various groups as well. I hope to keep writing, but the opportunity to concentrate is elusive. However, there is something I can do (besides write books and keep my three teenagers from consuming all the food in the house in one day). I’m going to try to suggest a good book every week for the next little while, hoping that reading them provides consolation and distraction.
Books give you a place to go when you have to stay put. They are escape hatches into another reality. They are secret gardens to hide in. They are forests in which you can lose your way and your worries – at least temporarily. These will all be books I’ve read, and some will be particularly suitable for a time of isolation.
Book Number One: The Siege – by Helen Dunmore. Setting: Leningrad in WW2 Published: 2001 This book blew me away when I first read it. The quality of the writing, the intensity of the situation and the believable characters made it one of my all time favourite books.
The subject matter is grim. Leningrad was starved. The people lived through bitter cold, famine and brutality. But the outcome is an uplifting, unforgettable narrative about family, love, commitment and true grit. The tenderness with which each relationship is detailed, and the way Helen Dunmore expresses the appreciation of small objects of comfort make this a very memorable and important read for these times.
I highly recommend this book, and I also recommend you order it from your local independent book shop – which will be able, most likely, to send it to you. There are always audio book options and ebooks too.
This book may help us to see that our lock down is quite luxurious by comparison. Perspective and context is everything! I hope you enjoy it. I hope you stay well in the midst of this frightening pandemic. I wish you strength.