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Lockdown Lovers

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Lockdown Lovers follows Canadian Kristal (Kate Mayhew) who meets Lisette (newcomer Stevie McKeon) on the last night of her trip to Australia, and the pair share a one-night stand. This is a party selection for the more discerning nutter, featuring huge drums, stomping bass, catchy riffs and a fair measure of barefaced cheek.

With nowhere to go, Kristal accepts Lisette’s invitation to stay with her, until the pandemic is over. Under these circumstances, it makes sense that it would produce a virus to protect itself and its species. And it hasn’t been easy: in a survey released in July last year by the relationship support organisation Relate, 38 per cent of 16- to 34-year-olds in relationships said they had struggled to support their partner emotionally during lockdown. As John reflects: “the old form of writing has almost been forgotten”, and in this new world, O’Sullivan guides us to ask questions we hadn’t before.For anyone who has ever spent time in Wan Chai or Causeway Bay, it’s almost impossible to miss Hennessy Road. While the facemasks make people “indistinguishable”, O’Sullivan’s characters remain intensely unique, enduring their own manifestation of vulnerability and loneliness. Max Made Me is a female founded and led future heritage brand, well known for it's established Personalised Letter Print range for children, luxury greeting cards and beautiful hand painted print collections for inspiring interiors.

For me, the most poignant moment of this chapter is not the descriptions of the dead man or the “hazmat suits with canisters of disinfectant”, but when John asks himself, “was his last lunch preserved uneaten in the plastic bag by his side?

John Mandel’s Station Eleven some years earlier and couldn’t wrap my imagination around the post-pandemic sections of the book. While he’s referring to the pandemic, this could also be said of any great quintessential Hong Kong writing—and indeed of any writing pitches the local against the global, the underdog against the hegemon, and individuals against faceless corporations.

The pandemic, equally global and yet personal, compounds this connectedness, and the McDonald’s is therefore a perfect anchor for a novel that does this same through its numerous characters. Her debut novel, The Widening of Tolo Highway ( Penguin Random House SEA, 2022), set in Hong Kong’s New Territories, is now available worldwide. Just as “Hong Kong was waking up to see itself like it had never seen itself”, so are Phoebe, John, his wife Sue, and through them, so is the reader.

Sue’s family is in Hong Kong and she has a support system in the city, but he can’t help but worry about his parents half a world away. We meet John, who sits in a 24-hour McDonald’s in the Hong Kong suburb of Sai Kung, sipping warm water and ruminating on the state of the city. Most of the story consists of these ruminations, and they are interesting because we’ve all had them. As I started his book, I found it both eerie and surreal to read about these events that we now know all too well. Kwok-ying is a government health worker who also ends up in the Lamma quarantine centre and who mentions in passing a politician named Carnie Lim in Hong Kong and a leader named Shi in China.

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