As an increasing number of people are self-isolating, or simply staying home more often to avoid crowds and the Coronavirus there has never been a better time to dive into a good book. Here are our recommendations for great, new apocalypse novels that will bring entertainment and meaning to these lonely days.
The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams
This historical fiction is set in a progressive all-girls school in 1870s Massachusetts where the residents suddenly begin to experience inexplicable maladies. Eliza, the protagonist, begins to suffer fits, and headaches and at night is prone to wandering the grounds. A red spot appears in her eye, and red blotches on her skin. As the contagion starts spreading to other girls a doctor with unknown motives enters the scene.
The writing is beautiful and ephemeral and paints a tone, a mood, a moment quite unlike anything else. “The first of the birds Caroline mistook for her own mind’s work. When the streak of red crossed the kitchen windowpane, fast, disastrous-bright, she thought it was some bloody piece come loose inside herself.”
The novel’s plot is slowly paced, and laced with suspense, mystery and a gathering gothic horror, and masks an ending that will leave the reader no doubt stunned. A perfect read for this era in which the world is gripped by a little-understood pandemic.
Available from Takealot
Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back, by Mark O’Connell
Consumed by fears of climate change and beset by self-criticism,“my ecological footprint is as broad and deep and indelible as my guilt”, journalist O’Connell dives deep into end of the world scenarios and conspiracy theories interviewing people from numerous backgrounds and approaches to the inevitable coming of the end of the world. This is a deft, light and funny book that takes readers from discussions with American doomsday preppers stockpiling food and ammo in anticipation of urban rioters, to Mars-colonization enthusiasts who believe leaving earth behind is their only means of survival to others who believe humankind is a flaw in evolution and welcome our upcoming demise.
There are a lot of questions in the book and many will likely be left judging some of the assertions, but the sense-of-humour and interest factor overrule all of that to create an apocalypse novel well worth your time, particularly now at the end of it all.
Available from Amazon.
Weather by Jenny Offill
Lizzie, the novel’s narrator, is trapped between two different worlds and anxieties. The first is her concern with her day to day life of school drop-offs and relationship concerns, and the second, the impending sense of doom that comes from the geological immensity of our corroding planet. “Weather” takes a look at the awkward daily balancing act required of women who need to manage the minutia of daily life, while wondering if those small things will matter and whether there will even be a world for her little children to live in.
Offill’s writing incredibly evokes the sense of fear, and worry just as the plot digs into the question of whether intense psychic suffering heightens your awareness of the pain of others, or makes you blind to it. At the end of the day, this is a novel of appreciation, and of coping. A book that shows us it is possible to be preoccupied with many things from the mundane to the dreadful and still notice the beauty in the simple things around us. This is a novel about more than the plot and one that leaves you thinking long after the final page has been read.
Available from Takealot.
Here for It by R. Eric Thomas
Known for his column in Elle magazine, R.Eric Thomas’ debut novel is a memoir about his own struggles with loneliness and discovering yourself, which is a description that really doesn’t indicate just how funny it all is. It’s a novel about being the outsider looking in at society, at once isolated from it and desperately craving its acceptance.
As the book develops Thomas finds himself asking the question is the future worth it? Why do people bother when everything seems to be getting worse? The answers are filled with joy and self-acceptance and will leave you filled with that almost impossible to find feeling these days, hope.
Available from Amazon.