The cliched but very accurate image that springs to my mind when pondering what it is to be truly content and calm is as follows: moving through the crowded aisle, all eager to reach the exit and that is the precise moment when it will hit you. That warm breeze. The air so humid that it seems unbearable after travelling in your comfies, yet so comfortable and welcoming that you cannot help but feel at ease. Striding down those steps, you know that the beach is calling you, you can already feel the soft, white sand between your toes and smell the salt tinge hanging in the air from the crystal clear sea, mixed with sun cream and oil and you can already feel the weight of the large mojito in your hand.
Now, picture me sipping lemon-infused water, sitting on a deck chair in my back garden, attempting to hold a book for reading while simultaneously swatting away wasps, pretending I am soaking up the sunshine at my idea of paradise.
Being in lockdown can give you substantial – and I won’t lie, probably far too much – time to do whatever you want. Most of this time I have spent reading for fun – apparently, that is a real thing, who knew?! The fact that I study a degree in “basically reading books”, a comment that has met my unimpressed gaze on far too many occasions, does not mean that I can always enjoy reading. I mean, as fun as Þrymskviða or Le Jeu D’Adam sound, I am much more of a light-reading kind of girl. And so, the end of exams meant one thing for me: I could read whatever I wanted. I can tell that you can feel my genuine excitement.
The first novel that I could not wait to pick up was Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love which had been recommended to me by so many of my friends that it would have been beyond rude to not give it a read. And I was not disappointed. Dolly’s writing is a breath of fresh air, and her honesty, wisdom and her sense of humour are contagious. I was completely hooked from the first page and every chapter follows like a late-night conversation with your best friend that you never want to end. She explores the art of transformation which is very relatable in lockdown, and you feel yourself moving on your own journey alongside Alderton’s.
After being utterly consumed by the BBC series, I had to move on to Sally Rooney’s Normal People, where I found myself in that classic predicament of wishing I had read the book before watching the series. Rooney’s use of free indirect discourse is innovative, and the inner English geek within me loved the classical literature references. The relationship between Connell and Marianne is utterly consuming, and you are invested from their very first awkward yet charming interaction. Seeing the true inner workings of both of their minds marks your heart instantly: the bottom line is, in my final year of university I am making it my personal mission to find myself a Connell.
My third recommendation was actually a book that I ended up re-reading. When I first read this novel, I never quite immersed myself in the story and found the extensive family heritage quite taxing – to be honest the family tree alone took me about half an hour to digest (us Evans are a ridiculously small family, hence my bewilderment). However, on my second read Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians immersed me into a world that I didn’t know existed. His descriptive writing style pulls you into a completely unknown world and, as Glamour‘s review of the novel put it, “it’s impossible not to get sucked into this satirical novel about the jet-setting lives of an enormous busybody family and its infinite Louboutin collection”. Ahhh, a girl can dream!
These bestselling novels have very much pulled me through lockdown, along with the assistance of ASOS’ “new in page”. I hope that they provide a welcome distraction where you can lose yourself in remembering the joy of connecting with others and in a time when you feel you may be spending far too much time with yourself.
Image: Caitlin Evans