Book review: Seeing Other People, Diana Reid

A contemporary post-COVID queer love triangle.

Diana Reid’s Seeing Other People is an exemplar of post-lockdown fiction. Sisters, Eleanor and
Charlie, find themselves in a low-key hot girl summer while Eleanor is reeling from a sudden break-up
with a long-term boyfriend and Charlie is attempting to re-establish a promising acting career that’s
been hindered by COVID-19. Both become attracted to the same person.

Where COVID-19 is inserted into fiction – as in Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World Where Are You or
Liane Moriarty’s Apples Never Fall, both of which are reminiscent of Reid’s drama – it has tended to
feel tacked on. It’s difficult to know what to say about the pandemic when we’re still figuring out
how to live with it. Reid deftly, though subtly, integrates this contemporary theme into the book’s structural sense of time and place. After long lockdowns, perhaps characters are choosing to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. This is a time when guilty possibilities seem compelling in the wake of so much restraint.

The return to social and professional life is rich for fictional exploration. As Charlie reflects, acting on
stage for the first time in years, she ‘felt, for the first time in months, that her life might mean
something: each event would impact the next’. That said, if you don’t particularly feel like reading
about COVID-19, don’t let Reid’s acknowledgement of its existence deter you – nobody gets ill, the
minutia of changing public health policy is mercifully absent. COVID is a potent backdrop, not the

The writing is quietly funny and engaging, shifting perspectives between characters. The tempo of
perspective shifts feels a little unpredictable, though this is a minor issue. Because its plot is
relatively sparse (there are some conversations, some parties, some shows), a lot of what happens in
the novel is thinking, and thinking about thinking.

Read: Book review: Waypoints, Adam Ouston

There’s a slow-burning pleasure to be had in the exquisite wreckage that extends from – compared with the scale of the pandemic – low stakes interpersonal drama. And the self-repudiation, arguments, anger, and deceptions that occur speak to the problem we all have: what do we do with our newfound freedom?

Seeing Other People by Diana Reid
Publisher: Ultimo Press
ISBN: 9781761150128
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304pp
Publication date: October 2022
RRP: $32.99

Erin Stewart is a Canberra-based freelance writer and researcher.