I admit this isn’t an original idea, but it’s a very good idea. First someone decided to rewrite the first lines of ten classic novels for social distancing. I’m taking the liberty of rewriting the opening lines from 25 of my favourite Australian novels for the Time of COVID-19. Apologies to all concerned.
Invisible Boys – Holden Sheppard
There are two ways out of this poxy shithole of a town, but you can’t go either way until the regional travel bans are lifted.
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. I’m really loving social isolation! But then again, I am an introvert.
The French Photographer – Natasha Lester
Jessica May turned on her famous smile and raised her arm aloft. It was all she could do to say hello from 1.5 metres away.
All That Is Lost Between Us – Sara Foster
It was only a memory now. Going to the gym and having a coffee afterwards with friends in the café.
The Sound – Sarah Drummond
My name is Wiremu Heke. But my Zoom name is Billhook.
The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
His eyes still shut, a dream dissolving and already impossible to recall, Hector’s hand sluggishly reached across the bed. Working from home was awesome. He could sleep till midday because no one knew when he started work.
You Belong Here – Laurie Steed
Jen sat sketching flowers on the footpath, the chalk worn down to a nub. She took a photo and quickly uploaded it to Facebook, hashtagging it #RainbowTrailAustralia.
The Sisters Song – Louise Allen
My memories of my father are scant and faded, and I only have two photos of him. His aged care home forbids visitors and it’s been too long since I’ve seen him.
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
They said I must die. They said I stole the breath from men and now they must steal mine. They call me COVID-19 and I am but a wee virus.
Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
‘That doesn’t sound like a school trivia night’ said Mrs Patty Ponder to her cat Marie Antoinette. ‘All non-essential events over 100 people have been cancelled!’
Trip of a Lifetime – Liz Byrski
Later, even when she’d had time to think about it, she still couldn’t remember anything unusual about the evening; UberEats on the couch, a bottle of wine and Netflix. The same thing every night for the past six weeks.
Let Her Go – Dawn Barker
Zoe turned to look out to sea. She was glad they hadn’t closed the beaches in Perth. Take that, Bondi!
The Good Turn – Dervla McTiernan
The waiting room was ugly and neglected. It had been cleaned recently – the overpowering smell of disinfectant was testament to that. ‘Have you been overseas in the past 14 days or had close contact with a confirmed case of corona virus?’ the receptionist demanded. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘I’m just here for a pap smear.’
The Happiest Refugee – Ahn Do
I’m flying down the Hume Highway at 130 kilometres an hour. Since everyone’s been told to stay home and isolate, there’s no one on the roads.
Postcards from Surfers – Helen Garner
We are driving north from Coolangatta airport. Our flights have been cancelled and I’m mad as hell. I’d better get a full refund.
They’re a Weird Mob – Nino Culotta
Who the hell’s Nino Culotta? That’s what you asked yourself when you first picked up this book, wasn’t it? Well he’s the guy who started Bin Isolation Outing.
Dustfall – Michelle Johnston (Ch 2)
Raymond. That was his name and he emerged from the mire with two small suitcases stuffed to the hinges with items hastily chosen; now he had two weeks compulsory quarantine in a city hotel at the expense of the Australian taxpayer.
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
Jasper Jones came to my window. Ever since we had to close the restaurant, drive-through has been going off!
Searching for the Secret River – Kate Grenville
In the puritan Australia of my childhood, you could only get a drink on a Sunday if you were a ‘bona fide traveller’. During the lockdown you can’t get a drink any day of the week, and travellers, well – we hate ‘em.
The Shadow Years – Hannah Richell
It is the smallest details that come to her; the damp grass underfoot threaded with buttercups, the air humming with insects, the snap of her nightdress catching in the breeze. She’d spent more time in her backyard during the last month of lockdown than she had in the previous year.
Beautiful, Messy Love – Tess Woods
It’s funny what you remember about the biggest moment in your life. But I think in a year or two, we all will have forgotten the lessons we learned during COVID-19.
Fractured – Dawn Barker
Tony’s footsteps echoed as he hurried across the underground carpark and into the lift. He saw the look of alarm on the old woman’s face. Tony removed his face mask. ‘I’m not sick,’ he said, but she had already stepped out of the lift.
An Indecent Obsession – Colleen McCullough
The young soldier stood looking doubtfully up at the large cruise ship, his kit bag lowered to the ground while he assessed the possibility that this was indeed his ultimate destination. An armed guard for the off-duty crew of a cruise ship? Were they going to sing and dance their way to escape?
If I Should Lose You – Natasha Lester
Patient care: stethoscope whispers, the lubdub or footsteps, but no huddles of family. Corona victims must die alone.
Sister Madly Deeply [Well Behaved Women] – Emily Paull
As I bring the clippers toward the soft dome of my head, all I can think about is how much I do not want to do this. But I am so bored in isolation and everyone else on Tik Tok is making videos of cutting themselves a fringe, so I’m going to do one too.
What other Aussie novels can you re-write the first line for?