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Enjoy or endure? Why is virus fiction so catching?

Prescribed: Daniel Defoe and Emily St John Mandel

SALES of books about pandemics are up but why are we doing it to ourselves?

‘A book can help you escape reality,’ says bilbliotherapist Ella Berthoud, ‘but sometimes people want to escape to a parallel place and lots of people have been reading Daniel Defoe’s A Journal Of The Plague Year.’

Reading about the bubonic plague in 1665 is helping some of us remember that this has all happened before. More people are also picking up Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, about a pandemic far more devastating than ours.

‘It’s interesting with novels, which are quite similar to what we’re going through but much worse,’ says Berthoud. ‘Some people love it because it helps them to think, “This is not that bad”, but for other people it’s too much. It totally depends on the individual.’