The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
|The Dark Circle by Linda Grant|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: An engrossing tale of love, life and death in a post Second World War TB sanitarium, The Dark Circle is a superbly written tale taking in a fascinating range of characters in an unusual and compelling period setting.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: November 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2017
It's 1949, and with the Second World War over, a new decade of recovery is beginning. For East End teenagers Lenny and Miriam, life has been suspended. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, they are sent away to a sanatorium in Kent, to take the cure, submit to the way of the Doctors, and learn the deferential way of the patient. Through doors newly opened by the one year old NHS, come Lenny in his striped London drape suit, and Miriam in cherry felt red coat, and beret pinned gingerly onto her blue-black curls. Trapped in a sterile closed environment, the twins find themselves meeting air force officers, a car salesman, a university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the Aristocracy, and, arriving to blast away their lethargic submission to authority - an American merchant seaman. Together they discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach, and may only be gained through full scale rebellion...
Linda Grant is an author whose books have been popular for a good 25 years or so now – particular favorites of mine include Remind Me Who I Am Again and Upstairs at the Party. As a result, I was thrilled to receive a copy of The Dark Circle in advance of its publication, and was doubly thrilled when I discovered that the author was concentrating on post WWII England – one of my favourite settings for books.
Set in a Kent sanatorium, The Dark Circle is filled with a lively and vivid group of characters who are deftly drawn whilst never being over examined – bringing them to life in the readers mind, and then allowing the reader a few snippets of information to provide them with backgrounds and personalities, but also allowing each reader to interpret each character, and the book as a whole, in a distinct and personal manner. All are sympathetic – from the twins at the heart of the story, to the aristocratic lady who has been living in the Sanatorium since it opened. The plot goes in various directions - some surprising and all entertaining. A plot to provide certain patients with drugs provokes some characters to form an unlikely partnership, and whilst the sanatorium setting is an endlessly fascinating one, it's occasionally left for intriguing new locations. Grant keeps a tight grip on the steering wheel at all times though – the plot is driven well and safely through every twist and turn, even if some plot twists will leave the reader gasping and, perhaps, crying.
Rich in texture and an illuminating look at a practice and period that, whilst it seems long past was only relatively recent, The Dark Circle is worth your time and attention. It is surprising that the one thing the characters are advised to get is exactly the thing that the book itself is – a big breath of fresh air. There is nothing startlingly original about either the plot or the characters, but there is a freshness to the writing that lifted me. It seems surprising that I would recommend a sanatorium in Kent for a visit, but I sorely advise you to go – no, in fact, I prescribe it for your health.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy – for further reading I'll recommend The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan – another book that features a plot that drives the reader along, raising questions about the society and ideals of post WWII England.
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant is in the Top Ten Historical Fiction Books of 2016.
The Dark Circle by Linda Grant is in the Top Ten General Fiction Books of 2016.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Circle by Linda Grant at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Dark Circle by Linda Grant at Amazon.com.
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