Writer in lockdown: Harold Fry author Rachel Joyce on how she's been staying sane

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Although as a writer, Rachel Joyce is used to spending long periods alone, she has found lockdown hard. PICTURE: Gaby Gerster Laif
Although as a writer, Rachel Joyce is used to spending long periods alone, she has found lockdown hard. PICTURE: Gaby Gerster Laif

The much-loved author of Harold Fry and Miss Benson's Beetle reveals how interacting with her SA readers in a virtual book club helped her shake off the  'terrible inertia and sadness' caused by lockdown.

How has lockdown affected you?

I am a very private person. I work at home. A lot about it has felt like a continuation of what I already know, except that it isn’t. I have had periods of terrible inertia and sadness. 

How have you been staying sane?

Trying to write. Trying to read. Trying not to ask too much of the day. Noticing small things. 

What have you found strange or interesting or sad or hopeful about the way the world has reacted to the pandemic?

I put a note up on Instagram, offering to virtual visit book clubs, and expecting a couple of replies at most. I had so many invitations! As a result, I have visited book clubs all over the world – and all from the confines of my caravan [she works in a caravan in a field near her home]. Who would have even thought of that before? I have been to India, Australia, America, Germany, South Africa too.. . and I have shared an hour with some extraordinary readers – generally women – that I would not have met before. We have talked about books and life. It has been very precious.

Have you developed any weird habits or obsessions?

I sincerely hope not.

What have you missed most?

Seeing people’s mouths. I hate face masks.

What have you been reading over the past few months?

I have dipped into so many books. Staying focussed has been hard.  

Your one guilty pleasure during lockdown?

If I could confess it, I don’t think it would be truly guilty...

Miss Benson's Beetle

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce

If you're looking for a gentle novel that will offer a portal to escape all this Covid-19 madness, then look no further than this book. A story about the smallest insect and the deepest friendship from the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry and The Music Shop.

Margery Benson's life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. 

Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery's expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.

It's an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries. (SOURCE:penguinrandomhouse.co.za)

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