There was a fascinating article in the 'Guardian' magazine yesterday, written by Maggie O'Farrell about her experience of Covid.
I didn't realise that she had been badly ill - hospitalised, in fact, because the virus triggered a resurgence of the serious illness she experienced as a child. (She shared something of that when she visited us at Woodbridge Library to talk about her memoir 'I Am, I Am, I Am' a few years ago.)
The doctors told Maggie to rest so she took to her bed and chose to surround herself with books, just as she had as a child. And the particular book of choice this time was 'Mrs Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf, set five years after the Spanish flu pandemic.
"Despite multiple readings, I had never before noticed the mechanisms of illness and recovery at work in the novel," Maggie says, "and I’m riveted by the coincidence of our pandemic and Woolf’s, separated by almost exactly a century."
She decides then to search for more descriptions of illness in fiction and, in the article, presents some of her findings. She concludes that "perhaps as we emerge from our pandemic, we need to ensure that we take with us what we have learned, to retain the sober wisdoms of sickness".
It's key, isn't it, that we take time to pause, to ponder and reflect. We're too quick to move on. I find that's the case with my reading. There are so many brilliant books to read that I'm straight on to the next before I've fully digested the one I've just finished.
How interesting, though, to take a theme in literature and to explore it, as Maggie has done. And I think I've read elsewhere that she likes to follow lists in her reading, generally. She'll read all of the titles shortlisted for a prize and she also likes to read all the work by a particular author, to see how they have developed and the themes and ideas they have pursued. I'm sure this proves fascinating.
Thank you for reading.