Six months on from the beginning of a global pandemic, it seems a bit early to be reflecting on the experience. Yes, we’ve all experienced a lot in these months, but with second waves springing up across Europe and elsewhere, it feels like the worst is yet to come.
With the publication of Zadie Smith’s Limitations and this, Covid memoirs are now already on the rise. Should we already be writing our experiences of this pandemic when there is so much more to come? Yes and no, I’m not sure of the answer.
I was sceptical about reading Alone Together, a book that combines experiences of the pandemic from 91 authors. I was worried it would be a bit preemptive, and it was to a certain extent, as it only covers the first few months of what is set to be a long-term pandemic. There are natural limitations to this, as it’s an ongoing experience.
However, I was surprised at the volume and diversity of experience this collection of poems, essays, interviews and personal stories manages to convey. It was never going to be an easy book to read – so I read it in small, regulated doses over a month. I enjoyed it more than I thought – and gained a lot from learning about the range of experiences the book shines a light on.
Covid-19 has affected the whole world, but this book reminds us that every experience of the pandemic has been different. “Today we may all be required to wear a mask. But our masks are unequal.” (W. Ralph Eubanks) Which is part of the beauty of the book. It gives voices to the multitude of different experiences of the pandemic and the range of difficulties faced. From caring for loved ones, trying to home-school and overall – just trying to stay sane and afloat in our tumultuous world. It’s a book about every felt aspect of the pandemic – love, loss, grief, comfort, connecting, and moving forward.
Although it is American-centric, as a UK reader, it shines a light onto the experience of Covid-19 from across the pond. It features words from 91 writers that I had never heard of and I found myself Googling authors and adding their books to my TBR list – you could say I learnt a lot about new writers. Alongside every poem, essay or interview is a brief description of the author and their works which I found useful and noteworthy.
I found the essays to be the most enjoyable to read. Although only ever a few pages long, I felt it gave a more in-depth view to understanding the person’s experience of the pandemic. They were all beautifully written, as they would be, but deeply insightful.
The entire book is self-reflective by nature and harrowing at times to read – since we are still very much living through it. Although preemptive, readers will gain a lot from reading this. It will become one of those books that are studied when trying to make sense of our current history. Hopefully, future historians will realise the diversity at the heart of experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Buy this Book on