I’ve found that there is a curse amongst English students. We have chosen to study an activity one usually conducts for pleasure and as a result, too often the joy of reading is drained from us. Just as I am falling into a novel which has sat patiently on my to read pile, I spot The Odyssey or Othello glaring at me, and the guilt of neglecting the reading list for my module pulls the book from my grasp.
With two national lockdowns and all teaching hours being conducted through Zoom, you would assume that English students and other keen readers such as myself, would be revelling in the hours now available to us, in which to read freely. However, this is not the case.
The uncertainty and fluctuating nature of 2020, has for some, launched their journey into reading. On the other hand, with such fictitious events unfolding in reality, I myself have struggled to digest any additional incidents presented to me by an author. Having said this, in November’s lockdown I discovered a new love for short fiction, which proved to be the perfect distraction.
I first heard about Daddy by Emma Cline on The High Low, a much loved podcast hosted by Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. This collection examines the relationship between genders and how it becomes imbalanced. Each episode centres around an interaction, which showcases how men choose to behave and subsequently treat the women around them. Just as in life, uncomfortable topics are swerved around, and whilst you are aware of a tension between characters, Cline conceals the source of this. Thus, one feels like they are people watching, something enjoyable in a year where this has become an all but extinct activity. Cline has not only exhibited the flaws of her male characters, but of the collections women too, therefore making her reader feel like a judge asked to examine a case. Overall, each chapter encouraged me to go beyond the automatic condemnation of inappropriate behaviour and the inadequate handling of difficult situations, but instead I found myself questioning why people behave in such a manner.
This was not a light read and Cline denies her readers resolution, which at times is frustrating, but actually brought a strange form of comfort when living in lockdown, where I too shared this uncertainty of what is to come. So, if you are looking for something to remind you of the issues we’re facing besides COVID, and replace your own worries with that of someone else, I highly recommend dipping into Daddy by Emma Cline.
– Katie Dunbar
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