Best of Friends
Bloomsbury Circus $29.99 pb, 315 pp
During the pandemic lockdowns in the world’s most locked-down city, I made a survey of the reading habits of friends and acquaintances. While nineteenth-century classics were popular – Austen and Dickens were favourites, Tolstoy too, and Middlemarch – realist fiction, in general, dominated the reading choices. Among Australian writers were Christina Stead, Jessica Anderson, and Heather Rose. Other contemporary writers included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Patrick Gale. One friend read umpteen novels from the Indian subcontinent; it was, she said, her best travel option given the circumstances. Another friend decided to read all of Bellow; he wanted, he said, to discover what everyone had been raving about. At a time when our own life stories were severely curtailed, there was a surge towards the big stories of others.