Roald Dahl said that “if you’re going to get anywhere in life, you’re going to have to read a lot of books”. Which is great news for me, as there’s nothing I like more than getting my nose stuck in a good book.
With more free time on my hands, and increased levels of pandemic-fuelled anxiety hitting once night-time arrives, I’ve been turning to the pages of books to distract and soothe me to sleep each night.
From the thrilling to the uplifting, to the down-right dark, take a look at three of the books I’ve loved reading most during lockdown…
My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
When I first told my mum I’d read this book over a weekend in lockdown she assumed it was a fluffy self-care book about taking time out to rest. I don’t blame her – I’m a sucker for a self-help book and the book title has the identical ring of the nonfiction I usually love to devour.
However, this book is definitely not of the self-help variety. In fact, quite the opposite – after reading the majority of it one Saturday on the sofa I was feeling mildly distressed, and had to go on a walk to calm myself down.
Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ tells the story of an unnamed narrator who can barely stand to be conscious, and retreats into a chemical, drug-fuelled hibernation for a year. Taking a cocktail of drugs, including the fictional ‘Infermiterol’ which induces three-day blackouts, the narrator aims to block out the trauma of her past, and reject all contact with the outside world, despite living in the one of the most privileged parts of New York City.
“I was on drugs. I took upwards of a dozen pills a day. But it was all very regulated, I thought. It was all totally above board. I just wanted to sleep all the time. I had a plan. Im not a junkie or something, I said defensively.
Im taking some time off. This is my year of rest and relaxation.”
This book is dark comedy at its best, and made me both laugh and cry, particularly when exploring the complicated relationship with the narrator’s parents. Granted, perhaps this is not the best book to read if you’re trying to blocking out lots of already intense thoughts or emotions, but I was completely hooked reading this.
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
I heard a lot of people raving about this book before reading it, which made me dubious that it would live up to the hype. However, in need of a new fiction read, and with The Silent Patient costing just 99p on Apple Books, I decided to give it a go, and I’m so glad I did.
This book tells the story of artist Alicia Berenson, who shoots her husband Gabriel five times in the head, and then never speaks another word. Forensic psychotherapist Theo is convinced he can save Alicia, obsessed with trying to get her to speak and uncover what really happened.
“But let us not forget that while Alicia Berenson may be a murderer, she was also an artist. It makes perfect sense—to me at least—that she should pick up her brushes and paints and express her complicated emotions on canvas. No wonder that, for once, painting came to her with such ease; if grief can be called easy.
The painting was a self-portrait. She titled it in the bottom lefthand corner of the canvas, in light blue Greek lettering.
This was the kind of the book I stayed up to read until the early hours under the sheets, while making dinner, and as soon as I was awake in the morning. I found this book gloriously easy to read, and while the story itself was a little dark, I devoured it like you do your favourite teen drama series, an astonished smile creeping on my face with every twist and turn.
I won’t give you any spoilers, but this was a brilliant read that I loved getting lost in for a couple of days.
In Five Years – Rebecca Serle
This book tells the story of lawyer Dannie Cohan, who has just landed her dream job, accepted her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, and is well on track to achieving her meticulously thought out five year plan.
“And then he asks me the proverbial question. The one you always prepare for because they always ask:
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I inhale, and then give him my airtight answer. Not just because I’ve practiced, which I have. But because it’s true. I know. I always have.
I’ll be working here, at Wachtell, as a senior associate. I’ll be the most requested in my year on M&A cases. I’m incredibly thorough and incredibly efficient; I’m like an X-ACTO knife. I’ll be up for junior partner.
And outside of work?
I’ll be married to David. We’ll be living in Gramercy Park, on the park. We’ll have a kitchen we love and enough table space for two computers. We’ll go to the Hamptons every summer; the Berkshires, occasionally, on weekends. When I’m not in the office, of course.”
But when she wakes up after a nap in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger (and a very different man in her bed), five years in the future, Dannie wanders how a dream could be so vivid. On waking back in her normal life, she pushes it to the back of her mind. That is, until she meets the man from her vision four and a half years later.
I thought this book was going to be a predictable, fluffy, light read, and was pleasantly surprised to find this story to be completely different to what I thought it was going to be. This book made me want to go and hug my best friends and tell them I love them. A perfect read for a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Which books have you loved reading during lockdown?