Self-isolation. It means something different to each of us. Perhaps you are in the company of a partner, roommates, a clan of kids; perhaps you are entirely by yourself. Regardless, the experience of being confined to your household and cut off from the outside world is a lonely one. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson won’t cure loneliness, but it’s the perfect read in which to find solace amid these unusual circumstances. At its core, the book is a compassionate and beautifully-written meditation on solitude and the idiosyncrasies of domestic life.
The lives of millions of children have been turned upside down by the Coronavirus which has left many parents wondering what is the best way to explain it all. To help, children’s publisher Nosy Crow has just published online and free of charge, Coronavirus – A book for children. The book was written by staff at the publisher with advice from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, two head teachers and a child psychologist and is illustrated by the Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler. Please spread the word about this brilliant idea.
Books to make you laugh
More than ever, this is the time to be there for your local bookshop. However tempting it might be to just click the buy button on Amazon, please think twice. Can you imagine emerging from your house in a few weeks/months time only to find it gone? You can make a difference right now by buying online from them. Here’s a photo of one of mine – Daunt on Holland Park Avenue in London (email@example.com). Get in touch with yours and see if they take online orders. Here’s a local bookshop finder if you don’t have a favourite yet LocalBookShops.co.uk
Bookstoker Young Readers
The 2020 Dublin Literary Award would have announced its shortlist on 2 April, but has since been postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Among the many big names on the extensive long-list was Story of a Marriage by Geir Gulliksen, which caused a stir in Norway upon publication in 2015. Many viewed it as the latest example of so-called virkelighetslitteratur – reality literature – a strand of life writing that seemed to expose the private lives of real people under the guise of fiction.
Can’t think of a better escape right now than the 1938 novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a glorious cocktail of jealousy, obsession, opulence and mystery. Our modest, unglamorous heroine works as a companion to a well-healed woman on holiday in Monte Carlo. There she meets the wealthy, dashing widower Max de Winter and an unlikely relationship begins. They marry and return to Manderley, de Winter’s palatial estate in England, where the ghost of de Winter’s dead wife Rebecca and the ghoulish housekeeper Mrs Danvers rule. An extraordinary psychological thriller.
We thought a list of utterly addictive, read-while-you’re-brushing-teeth, stay-up-all-night books might be called for at this point. Here are our top ten:
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
North Water by Ian McGuire
Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Porpoise by Mark Haddon
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
And then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
The Shardlake Series by CJ Samson
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Kim Jiyoung Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo shook South-Korea to the core when it was published there a few years ago, unleashing a fierce #MeToo debate. It chronicles the life of Kim Jiyoung from birth to motherhood to mental breakdown and is written in the form of a psychiatrist report. The cold clinical way her case is described is, of course, a reflection of the way she, as a girl and a woman, is treated. That South Korea lags behind in women’s lib possibly doesn’t come as news but this little book still had the power to surprise and move.