56 DAYS is a book about COVID–but also a relationship drama, a murder mystery, and a bottle episode that will leave you up at night. It focuses on Ciara and Oliver, who meet just as the pandemic is starting to reach Irish shores. They’re both new arrivals to Dublin and forge a strong connection after just a few dates. As the country goes into lockdown, Oliver and Ciara decide to move in together, mostly to avoid Ciara having to work from home from her cramped studio, preferring Oliver’s posh 2-bed instead. Probably a good move – or is it?
Early on, we find out that a dead body has been found in Oliver’s flat, 56 days since the restrictions began. As cops start to piece together the story, we get glimpses of Oliver and Ciara’s relationship through both their perspectives, trying to find out what happened. The time and perspective jumps were some of my favourite parts of this. We often see the same scene from both Ciara and Oliver’s eyes, a technique I wish was used more in fiction (or at least as effectively as Howard does). The plotting is fast-paced and the dialogue is compelling. I could see this adapting very well to the screen, if people are ever in the mood to watch movies about 2020.
But like other books about COVID, this novel suffers from examining our current reality as if it’s history. I’m not sure how this book will read in a year or in a decade or even in the next six months. As a thriller, it keeps the tension high, and the twists did genuinely shock me, even with references to real crime cases that have gotten heavy podcast treatment.
But I wish the text did a bit more to explore the economic stresses of COVID–neither character loses their job, and the only sources of stress seem to be the occasional run to Tesco for pasta and toilet paper. Oliver and Ciara never quite function as a believeable couple because of this. And if this book lasts in the public consciousness as a “COVID novel”, it might start coming across as awfully trite.
RATING: 3/5 STARS
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