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Covid in Fiction

  If you want to have a go before seeing the answers CLICK HERE

Following a time of historic trauma (war, school shootings, 9/11), narrative fiction only appears after much non-fiction and poetry.  If a writer chooses to deal with it at all.  New novels by Jonathan Franzen and Lauren Groff, for instance, dip back in time. Other writers, who began their novels just before Covid, ended up incorporating it; while still others, coming slightly later, tackled it head on. Just as it was near impossible at a certain point to avoid the internet or mobile phones in a contemporary setting, so it is now difficult to ignore the ongoing pandemic.  Here we have 10 novels and short stories that in one way or another revolve around Covid, and the rewards – be it through humor, revelation or speculation – are great.  

If you want to have a go before seeing the answers CLICK HERE

Name the novel or short story:

1. Set in 2020, this novel centers around a writer who invites his friends to ride out the Covid lockdown in little cottages on his estate.
Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart

2. One of the central characters in this novel describes the drawings of the virus as such:  “All look a bit like little planets with trumpets coming out of their surface, or little worlds covered in spikes of growth, a little world that’s been shot all over its surface by those fairground darts with tuft tails from the old-fashioned rifle ranges, or like mines in the sea in films about WW2.”
Summer by Ali Smith

3. In this novel a young couple from New York City has just planned a vacation trip to the Galápagos when Covid hits, but as one of them is a surgeon, he is needed in the city; she, however, goes.
Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

4. This novel is essentially a ghost story that sometimes shifts into social realism: specifically, an account of the first months of the pandemic which includes the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

5. This crime novel, set in Dublin, is set at the onset of Covid. Two young people, each alone, who have recently moved there, begin a relationship and soon decide to live together during the lockdown.  But a dead body appears ….
56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

6. In this short story, the last to appear in a collection stemming over the years, we now see this couple in their nineties as Covid begins to rage.  And then one of them contracts it. 
(The 91-year old author lost her husband to the virus, and drew upon her grief to update the characters for this story.“The Great Escape” by Hilma Wolitzer

7. What if the virus had been more deadly, with millions dying in the UK alone?  In this dystopian novel two young lovers go into lockdown together where one ends up nursing the infected other in what becomes “a kind of terrible but ecstatic consummation of their love,” where sex becomes more intimate as the characters come closer to death.
Burntcoat  by Sarah Hall

8.  In this short story, an Irishman is away in Newcastle. While Covid rules and regulations are in place back in Ireland, life continues as normal in England, with hen parties and full pubs.  He’s a man with four kids, now grown, and not particularly happy.  He considers throwing away his passport and phone and not returning.
“Life Without Children” by Roddy Doyle

9. “The Indian Prime Minister was asking people to bang their plates and pots at a certain hour; people in his conservative party were touting the powers of cow dung and cow urine," he says. "A minister of health said that the rays of the sun would build immunity. So, I was thinking, what exactly is the work a novel can do in the time of the novel coronavirus?”
A Time Outside This Time by Amitava Kumar

10.  In this short story, a teen is making masks for nursing home employees out of her prom dress when she discovers that the boy she’s been chatting with online is her favorite contestant on a popular reality show. 
“Masked” by Erin Hahn

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