The book has won plaudits from the Whitbread Prize-winning Irish poet and Oxford don, Bernard O’Donoghue, author of Seamus Heaney and the Language of Poetry (1995), who says: ‘It is a wonderful account of the time of coronavirus; I especially like the reverie at the end with its sense of time regained in that Proustean way. The writer, Julian Roup has a great gift for evocation and description.’
Life in a Time of Plague is the story of Britain under the first 75 days of its unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown, seen from the author, Julian Roup’s rural East Sussex valley home. (His previous books are A Fisherman in the Saddle and Boerejood.)
From the refuge of a seemingly idyllic country idyll, the book monitors in bleak and forensic detail the failure of the Government to protect Britain, and its woeful response at every stage of the pandemic.
The author’s age and medical issues colour this diary with dark humour; as his age group is most at risk. He is determined to make his 70th birthday at least, despite the thousands of death in Britain to date.
It is a quiet slow appreciation of the bright and dark spring and summer of 2020 in the English countryside, set against the horrors faced by frontline workers to whom the book is dedicated.
However what is most surprising is that amid the death, heartache and economic carnage, there is a silver lining; the chance to simply stop and stare, and rethink our lives.
Former Gardening Editor of The Times, George Plumptre (Chairman of the National Garden Scheme) says of the book: ‘This is the best diary of the COVID-19 pandemic – witty, incisive, irreverent, iconoclastic.’
BLKDOG Publishing says: ‘We are delighted to be able to publish Julian Roup’s new book. His writing has been described by the FT as: “Brilliant, terrific, really very, very good. Engaged, intelligent, personal, fast-moving and funny.” And this new book underlines that gift.’
Author Julian Roup comments: ‘With this terrible threat hanging over us I felt a need to add my voice to what will become the human story of death and survival of this pandemic that has brought the world to a screeching halt. And to hold this woeful Government to account, as it has failed to protect Britain.’
A foreword by writer, editor and broadcaster, Ivan Macquisten, says: ‘A plague on him dammit – why didn’t I get there first? This is the standout lockdown diary. I have long come to appreciate Julian Roup’s ready wit, lilting tones and gently reflective delivery. He employs all this deftly to draw in the reader with a charm that bewitches – but beware because when his deeply driven liberal conscience is offended by our lords and masters, he can break that spell with a sharpness that makes you catch your breath.
‘Listening to him is a little like being a batsman watching the reassuring whites of a village team spin bowler as, slowly drawing back his arm, he trots up to the crease, only to discover a split second later that the stumps have gone and the umpire is directing you back to the pavilion after you’ve been caught by a googly. Roup is a seriously good writer with a heft and tone that echoes the mesmerising delivery of the great Garrison Keillor.’
An early review in BizNews where the book was first featured as a podcast, described it as ‘a mix of Cider with Rosie and Under Milkwood.’