Today’s team review is from Arra. She blogs here https://arrastoneglade.wordpress.com/
Arra has been reading This Is Lockdown by M.J. Mallon
This is Lockdown is an anthology of diary pieces, flash fiction, poetry and blog extracts – all related to or themed around coronavirus and the lockdown in the UK in 2020. As a reviewer I felt torn over how to approach this work. As a piece of history or an archival work it was great. Mallon includes her diary entries from the first UK lockdown going up to 1st June 2020. Within these entries are included details about death tolls and actions by politicians that give some wider context as well as her personal experiences. As a piece of social history we learn how her and her family coped, how they felt and how they entertained themselves and tried to keep positive. I was unclear whether the diary entries had originally been blogposts as there were lots of links out to websites and blogs included, this added depth and context to the entries but was a bit distracting in a book. I can imagine historians in the future looking back on texts such as this, welcoming the details and getting a real feel for the time it encapsulates.
After the diary entries come pieces from the ‘Isolation Writers’ – these were writers who responded to Mallon’s call for contributors. These pieces are blog entries where the writers tell of their experience in lockdown, how they are coping and how it is has affected them as writers. It also includes a post from Jane Horwood and Melissa Santiago-Val who began making community face masks and raising money for the NHS Charities Together. Again, as a piece of social history we are learning predominantly about a particular self-selected demographic of the population (writers) and how they are responding. This is an interesting collection and will provide invaluable insights for the historians of the future, as well as giving current readers a sneaky peak into the lives of writers.
Part 2 of the book include short stories, poetry and flash fiction by Mallon that were inspired by her experiences and feelings about the pandemic.
Even though I chose to review this book as I was drawn to its content, I discovered as a reader that for the moment it all feels too close for comfort. As I write this review I sit in a Tier 4 area and my life has changed little from the days of the first national lockdown. Reading Mallon’s diary entries just emphasised a claustrophobia that envelops me. Part of my reaction was that, on the one hand, the first lockdown felt a million years ago (almost 1 year ago now), and it felt different to subsequent lockdowns probably because it was ‘new’ then, and less people seemed to be going about their normal business. Yet, nearly 12 months later, the country is still struggling with the virus, we are still in much needed lockdown, and it feels a bit soon to be looking back and reading about those first few months. Perhaps if I read it again in ten years’ time I would have the perspective and distance of time and would respond differently. But I should emphasise that this is a very personal reaction and others may not feel the same at all and will gladly enjoy these reflections now.
I also felt that the book wasn’t really sure what it was and was trying to do too many things. Personally, I would have preferred to have had Mallon’s diary entries and her fiction and poetry as one collection, without including anyone else. This book then could have stood strong as her own creative reaction and response to the coronavirus crisis. She could also have edited a volume of work from the ‘Isolation Writers’ collective as a separate entity, including their reflective pieces as well as more poetry and fiction written specifically for such a volume.
Mallon’s project with the ‘Isolation Writers’ was a great idea as can be seen from the number of writers who responded positively and wanted to contribute. But their pieces were written as blog posts and as such when they were reproduced in book form felt too bitty for me. I wanted to read a book, a written anthology, rather than a collection of blog posts.
So, I guess my problem was that I felt there should have been two volumes rather than one! Which I hope can be seen as positive feedback, as I don’t want to criticise the content but rather the format.
An anthology and compilation of diaries, short stories, flash fiction, contributions from the ‘isolation writers,’ plus poetry written during the time of lockdown in the UK. This Is Lockdown is written from a writer’s perspective highlighting the simple pleasures of day-to-day life during such an uncertain and frightening time. It also gives a glimpse of the blogging, writing world. The book showcases several authors and their thoughts on what it is like to experience ‘isolation’ as a writer. I also discuss the handling of the pandemic and my thoughts on what might happen next. In the final part of the book I include my latest short story idea: a YA romance and various short pieces of poetry, and flash fiction inspired by the pandemic.
The full list of authors are: Richard Dee, (Sci Fi , Steampunk, Amateur Detective author,) Catherine Fearns, (Amazon Bestselling Author of Police Procedural/Mysteries and Music Journalist,) Lynn Fraser, (Author,) Jackie Carreira, (Writer, musician, designer and aspiring philosopher,) Willow Willers, (Poet and Writer,) Sharon Marchisello, (Murder Mystery, Financial non-fiction author,) Fi Phillips ,(Author, Copy Editor,) Jeannie Wycherley, (Dark stories, Suspense, Horror,) Chantelle Atkins, (Urban Fiction, Teen/YA,) Tracie Barton-Barrett, (Speaker/Author,) Peter Taylor-Gooby, (Crime, Love Stories, Political Fiction,) Ritu Bhathal, (Chick Lit, Romance, Poet,) Alice May , (Author, Artist and Speaker,) Miriam Owen, (Blogger, Doctoral Researcher,) Drew Neary and Ceri Williams (Ghost Horror, Supernatural,) Katherine Mezzacappa, (Historical Fiction/Romance,) Sally Cronin, (Huge supporter of indie community/Blogger/Author) D G Kaye, (Memoirist/NonFiction,) Adele Marie Park, (Fantasy, Horror, Urban fantasy,) Marian Wood, (Blogger, Poet and Writer.) Samantha Murdoch, (Writer, Blogger,) Beaton Mabaso (Blogger, African storyteller,) Frank Prem (Poet, Author) Anne Goodwin (Author, Book Blogger) Sherri Matthews (Writer, Photographer, Blogger,) Jane Horwood and Melissa Santiago-Val – Community Masks for The NHS .