Reviews

Invisible’s got an excellent, tense plot, shifting between the two main characters, with a good number of surprises along the way. Poulson always has great, strong women characters, with real lives and feelings . . .  I liked the fact that the depictions of violence and injury were realistic without being over-detailed or gloating . . . It was a pleasure to find a book that did the excitement, the jeopardy and the thrills without putting off this reader . . .  a very good read for anyone.’

- CLOTHES IN BOOKS

Shall it be The Plague or Right Ho, Jeeves?

Posted on Mar 21, 2020 in Albert Camus, P G Wodehouse, The Plague, The Stand | 4 Comments

When the going gets tough, the tough . . . buy books?

I couldn’t be better placed for weeks of social isolation from the point of view of reading. I have enough books here to last for years  and years if you count books that I’d be happy to reread. And yet I am still buying them. I have just ordered another online (since you ask, a second-hand copy of The Funeral of Figaro by Ellis Peters recently reviewed by my friend, Moira, over at Clothes in Books). The libaries are closed and I need books to do research for my new novel  (no excuse for not getting on with this now that my social calendar is completely empty), so I have been ordering them from the Guardian bookshop. Yes, people are stocking up on tins of baked beans and loo paper and I am panic-buying books.

The question I asked earlier was, shall it be Camus’s The Plague or Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves. That is, shall it be serious reading or reading to escape (not that the two are mutually exclusive). A bit of both, I hope. I would like to say that I shall be using this enforced leisure to read À La Recherche du Temps Perdu, but just as people read Agatha Christie while fire-watching in the Blitz, I am more likely turning to be turning for solace to Golden Age crime fiction or heart-stopping thrillers. And then there are those great comforters, Jane Austen and Trollope. I am currently listening to the divine Juliet Stevenson reading Mansfield Park: sheer bliss.

But there is another category of book that is apparently selling well: books like Camus’s The Plague An Air That Kills by Christine Poulsonand Stephen King’s The Stand, books that reflect the spirit of the times all too closely. I can’t class myself with those writers, but rather spookily, it turns out that I have written such a novel myself. In An Air That Kills Lyle is sponsoring research into the mechanisms that allow strains of animal flu to jump the species barrier and infect humans. Katie, my scientist heroine, imagines the impact of a such a disease in this age of mass communication: the virus spreading out ‘with the slow inevitability of ink released into water. She saw people, boarding planes, taking their deadly cargo to all corners of the globe.’ I did understand when I researched the novel last year that it was only a matter of time before something like this happened, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen more or less straight away…

 

4 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    March 21, 2020

    Your book really was prescient, Christine. I think that’s one thing about writers; we imagine all sorts of possibilities… I’m glad you have plenty to read. It really does help during these times of social distance. Good idea about working on the next novel, too. I have a manuscript of my own I ought to pull up.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      March 21, 2020

      Glad to hear from you, Margot. Even though I have so much more time now, it’s hard to settle to things – and I have to stop myself from looking at the news online too much. On the other hand it is wonderful to be able to stay in touch online. Stay well and safe.

      Reply
  2. Susan D
    March 24, 2020

    The Plague or PGW? Oh dear. No contest. Plus D E Stevenson, Barbara Pym and the like. Light and calming. Instead, however, I find myself revisiting a lot of Margaret Atwood.

    And so far, yes, I’ve ordered 2 books already (MA’s The Circle Game, and a recent Canadian attraction Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club (since my library reserve, even if they were open, would show up around 6 months later….) despite having many many unread books on my shelves at home. And many many more for rereading.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      March 24, 2020

      I haven’t actually read any D E Stevenson, but others have mentioned her. Barbara Pym, yes… I think my book craving (there ought to be a German portmanteau word for ‘fear of running out of things to read’) probably goes back to my childhood, when we only got to the library in the nearby town once a week and – I think – I was only allowed to get one book at a time. It is definitely comforting to be surrounded by unread books.

      Reply

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