Review: Love In Lockdown by Chloe James

Title: Love in Lockdown

Author: Chloe James (a pseudonym for Fiona Woodifield)

Published: 23rd November 2020, Avon Books UK

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy AvonUK/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

I selected Love In Lockdown by Chloe James on a whim, in part because I thought I’d probably be in the mood for a light romance by the end of Nonfiction November, and also because I was curious about how an author might integrate the lockdown into a novel.

Set in the UK, Love In Lockdown begins in March 2020, shortly after the British government mandates a stay at home order, where all but ‘essential’ workers are required to remain at home, except to participate in a limited period of socially distanced exercise, or purchase groceries in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic.

As the cheers and applause for the weekly ‘Clap for NHS’, honouring the sacrifices of the doctors and nurses dealing with the pandemic, die down, Jack hears the sobs of a woman on the balcony beneath him. Sophia, moved by the chorus, and emotional thinking about the risks coronavirus poses to her loved ones, is startled by a stranger’s inquiry about her well-being from the flat above her, but enjoys the ensuing chat. Told in chapters that alternate between the first person perspectives of Sophia and Jack, thus begins a slow, sweet development of a friendship leading to a romantic relationship, despite the two being unable to meet face to face.

Sophia, a teacher, is required to continue working, as is her roommate, a NHS midwife, while Jack, a bartender, is confined to his flat 24/7 due to a kidney condition which places him in a high risk category. Their evening chats, sharing snacks and drink via an improvised dumbwaiter, quickly become a regular highlight of their day, and their discussions prompt them to reach out to others in their immediate area who may be lonely, or in need of help.

The romance between Sophia and Jack is the driving element of the novel, but Love In Lockdown is also a story about family and community. James features the ways people find to connect despite the necessity of physical distance during the lockdown, shown by the regular FaceTime calls between Jack and his brother, Sophia’s sister’s Zoom wedding, and the use of WhatsApp to link the people in Sophia and Jack’s neighbourhood and set up an informal care network.

The author also explores the impact of the lockdown on diverse groups of people outside the immediate locale, like Sophia’s students and their parents, the autistic residents of a nearby boarding home, and members of Jack and Sophia’s extended family.

While the story isn’t without its flaws, Love In Lockdown is a light, escapist read that as the author hoped, reflects the positive spirit, courage, hope and love that also came out of the lockdown, despite its dire circumstances.

++++++

Available from Avon Books UK

Or from your local Amazon retailer