Are fiction readers ready for novels about the Covid pandemic?

30 November 2021

Fiction writers were always going to incorporate the current Covid pandemic into their work at some stage, and possibly some may have wondered when exactly that would be appropriate. Given there is doubt as to whether the virus will ever completely disappear though, many writers have decided waiting for a “better time” is futile, if a look at new and recent publications is anything to go by.

But Lara Feigel, writing for The Guardian, questions whether readers are ready to see pandemic-related plots featuring in the work of their favourite authors.

When lockdown hit last March, some writers offered their services as delivery drivers or volunteered at Covid test centres. Others attempted to make progress with preexisting projects, blanking out the new world careering into being in front of them. But nothing written in the past 18 months can be entirely free of Covid, with its stark blend of stasis and fear. And now, as we see the work made by writers who confronted it head on, questions emerge. Do we really want to read about the pandemic while it is still unfolding? Do we risk losing sight of the long view in getting too caught up with the contemporary?

For my part, I think it’s going to come down the tastes of different readers, and their personal experiences of Covid. The pandemic is prominent in a number of novels I’ve written about in the last couple of months, including Wish You Were Here, by Jodi Picoult, The Black Dress, by Deborah Moggach, and The Sentence, by Louise Erdrich, while Covid — in the form of another viral outbreak — is alluded to in The Quiet at the End of the World, by Lauren James, Scary Monsters, by Michelle de Kretser, and The Animals in That Country, by Laura Jean McKay.