After the fifth night of not sleeping, I considered my choice of bedtime reading might be to blame. Shuggie Bain, winner of the Booker Prize is exquisitely written, it might be one of the best written books I’ve ever read. But reader beware, a talented writer with a vicious subject is a brutal read. The vicious depictions of alcoholism, domestic violence and blighted innocence cut into a brain at rest.
And then I thought about the dystopian young adult book my twelve year old was reading. What effect was the strange and altered world having on his real dystopian experience of lockdown and isolation? What invisible trauma was this double dose of the bizarre and disturbing having on his growing mind? When I suggested he might want to dial down his reading – he’d just finished iboy – the story of a boy with an i phone in his brain – he seemed surprisingly eager.
‘Got any Secret Seven?’ He asked.
‘Really? Great!’ I didn’t find any of the Enid Blyton but I did find Rotten Romans and this was received with enthusiasm. A few days later he came down with a virus, supposedly not THE virus, and he spent a week in bed re-listening to all his Harry Potter audio books.
When 100,000 have died on our small island, at the last count, our subconscious brains are computing our risk, even as we sleep, and despite our intelligent reasoning of age, health, exposure, our subconscious needs to be soothed. We need to feed it familiar, safe messages from a time before, when we didn’t fear the breath of other people; when the majority of the threats we faced, we could see. So consider your bedtime reading for the whole family and take it down a notch or two.