If you're like me, the last fiction you want to dive into right now is directly related to the COVID-19 disaster. I don't want to read science fiction of zombies or biohazards. I don't want to become better informed about germs and bacteria. I want to escape. And yet I don't want frivolity either, because the moment feels serious, and I'm scared.
So here are some favorite reads of mine, which largely concern stasis, in some way - the state of being stuck, waiting in one place, waiting amidst large or small events beyond our control, waiting for life to happen, and finding comfort and relief in the simple.
1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
Jane Austen's final novel concerns her oldest heroine Anne - an aged 27 year old - who was forced by her family away from the love of her life, Captain Wentworth, who has recently returned from sea, a hero. Anne's life is dictated by poverty and circumstance and the whims of others. She lacks the ability to run to the man she loves and tell him how she feels. The final declaration of love is probably Austen's best, because of its simplicity and sincerity, but also because of the agony of waiting.
2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The men are off at war. The women are left at home to scheme and wait and dream, and cheat. This novel jumps back and forth between - you guessed it - war and peace. Epic themes are balanced with human elements, romance and pain. It's also a long read, so depending on how long we're all practicing social distancing, you might not even finish by the time we can go outside again.
3. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Probably the most on-the-nose of all my suggestions, but if you're the kind of person who would rather log on to Tindr or Hinge than be alone indefinitely during the plague, perhaps this novel can be a salve. Florentino and Fermina, two Spanish lovebirds are young hot and in lust, but just like Anne and Wentworth in Persuasion, they are forced apart by a disapproving family. Fermina gets married, and Florentino becomes a hero. Time unfolds.
4. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
This is the simple diary of an old preacher who is living out the rest of his days with his young son and wife in the mid-20th century. He doesn't have much time left, and he has some thoughts about it. He is struck by fears about what will happen after he's gone, and he wants to prepare for a future over which he has little power. He finds his peace through faith and solitude and forgiveness.
5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
10 strangers are invited to an isolated island. All of them have a dark secret. All of them must fight to survive. A novel about getting what's coming to you, with a twist that will shock you. No spoilers from me. You'll finish this in a day. It will keep you up at night.
So that's it! What are you reading? What's keeping you sane?