Is it safe to go out yet?
Well, yes and no. In the past week we’ve gone from seeing no one to seeing dozens of people. Encounters with friends, long-postponed appointments, various essential errands. Things are “opening up” we are told, at the same time as increased numbers of cases are reported. “Just a factor of more testing“, say some. But “tell your older loved ones to stay home” cautions Public Health.
The allusions to the film 12 Monkeys just keep piling up. Bruce Willis is all of us, in the not-so-distant future, living in underground bunkers and not looking all that happy about it since David Morse (body double for the CCP?) heads to the airport to unleash a virus that quickly goes global. Yes, truth is stranger than science fiction.
However lovely your bunker may be (and I hear all the billionaires have some worth writing home about) there may come a time when hearth and home start feeling like ball and chain. Which has me thinking about the ways in which our living space defines us for better or for worse. Feel like getting beyond your own four walls? Here are five reads that will free you from your bunker:
1. The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Published in 1851 but one of those classics that is a classic for good reason. A memorable house that stands witness to generations of doings and wrongdoings. “It was itself like a great human heart, with a life of its own, and full of rich and sombre reminiscences.”
2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Another sort of classic, a gothic beach read of sorts. Manderley is the manse and oh how many secrets it holds. Even if you’ve read it once, go for a do-over. Du Maurier will have you at “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley…”
3. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Purportedly set in the Hebrides but drawing inspiration from Woolf’s childhood summer home in Cornwall, To the Lighthouse is brilliant and experimental and about many things, one of them being the way a house is inwardly lit by the iconic Mrs. Ramsay and how that light and her family itself is lost after after her death.
4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
When is a house not a house? When it’s a hotel and you are under house arrest. Everyone has read this book – I’ve read it twice – so if you haven’t , you need to get started. Especially since “house arrest” is something we can now all relate to.
5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The main character in Patchett’s latest and enormously popular novel is a stately 1920’s house on the outskirts of Philadelphia. There is no happily ever after for the family within, and there you have the story, complete with the wickedest stepmother outside a fairy tale. “Our childhood was a fire. There had been four children in the house and only two of them had gotten out.”
So there. Even if you are still feeling like it’s house arrest, as long as you have a book, there are places to go. Hunker down. Bloom where you’re planted. Shelter from the storm. Because there’s no place like home…