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Lockdown, mark two.

I’ve said before that I am not a good candidate for a pandemic: if this were a dystopian movie, I would be the hysterical woman at the beginning being sternly told to calm down and not being seen again. We are in insolation, and for me it feels as though the pandemic has finally reached our island. Obviously we have not been immune to the pandemic these past (almost) two years, but this time our wee school has been closed, our children have been tested, and our doors firmly shut to the outside. I am on high alert for any cough, rosy cheek or complaint that could signal a sign of illness. I am in a panic about missing craft fairs and mounting bills. I am counting tins and toilet rolls, and listening in to phone calls as we navigate work and family, as more and more people I know test positive. I am reconsidering whether I really do believe that being self employed can make it easier to ride out changes in an unpredictable world. I’m back in lockdown mode.

Five days in and I’ve done loads of baking and frozen an enormous amount of soup. I’ve purchased a bread lame on Etsy. I’ve ordered more wine. And I reacquainted myself with Ethan Gage. While I was supposed to be improving myself through my reading of the great novels and Booker-prize winners, looking back over my Kindle purchases and bookshelves, and reflecting on the Summer Reading list I shared with you all, this past year I can see I’ve chosen escapism over improvement. And it’s been fun!

Ethan Gage is the lovable-rogue hero of an adventure series by William Dietrich. Set during the Napoleonic wars, Gage gives Indiana Jones a run for his money in the swashbuckling, treasure hunting, myth-busting stakes. Knights Templar? Egyptian curses? Thor? All there. Perfect with a mince pie, or a swig of rum.

I read three books off my summer reading list of six, peppered with many free Kindle books of the ‘this summer’s cosiest romance’ type, many set in beach b&bs or coffee shops.

The pen-ultimate book in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley, The Missing Sister, was an expected pleasure. I’ve loved all the books in this series and this one didn’t disappoint; I enjoyed the interaction between the sisters across continents and the weaving of stories through time, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how all the strands are pulled together in the final instalment. Weaving stories was a theme in the Absolute Book, by Elizabeth Knox. It was cleverly conceived, I think, more than the ‘instant classic’ it was reviewed as. I loved how myths and legends and stories and fantasy tropes were used to create a world within our world, and fans of fantasy with knowledge of these things will enjoy finding the connections. I couldn’t put it down, but it hasn’t stayed with me.

I wasn’t sure about The Great Mistake, by Jonathan Lee, when I started it, but it grew on me as I got used to the rhythm of the writing (at first, I couldn’t work out if it was a biography or a story, and it felt a bit clunky), and in the end it was a satisfying read.

I wouldn’t say that it’s been a great year for reading – my single standout novel is still Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light - but it has been one full of easy moments in novels that have brought comfort, reliability and fun when life has been unsettling and strange.

Do you have books on your Christmas list? I’d love to know what they are!

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