Title: The Dark Circle – Linda Grant
Publisher: Virago Press
Date: 3rd November 2016
Available from: Amazon
The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has announced the shortlist for 2017!On that list is The Dark Circle by Linda Grant which I requested a copy of about a month ago so yeah, it’s taken me a while to get through it (she says as if that makes a change).
The story follows mainly two siblings from East London who contract tuberculosis just before the vaccinations became widely available on the NHS. They’re sent to a sanatorium in Kent (what we’d call a hospice probably) to rest and receive treatment.
It’s here that much of the story takes place and we meet a few other characters along the way such as the enigmatic American, Arthur Persky and the quiet, reflective Hannah Spiegel.
The cover of the book describes it as “exhilaratingly good” which I disagree with. This is the kind of book that would make a brilliant indie film but exhilarating isn’t the word I’d use. Somewhat like Safety Not Guaranteed where, yes, of course, everything is a bit odd and no action really takes place until the end, but everything is very important to the characters.
I found the book a bit slow to get going as you might have guessed, and once it did it wasn’t the pacy, dramatic style I’m used to. It’s a brilliant story if you fancy a reflective read. The style is refreshingly cynical and I’m always a fan of casual swearing.
I found the female half of the twins, Miriam, to be particularly sharp and to the point which I love. This unladylike description for example,
“I’d call that geezer a cunt but he ain’t got the warmth or the depth”
Is delightfully crass and creative.
The overarching theme of feeling contained with no other option is familiar though, and the events that tie the group together bring the tale to a somewhat satisfying conclusion (cheeky teaser, there is a cliffhanger and it’s a doozy).
It’s an emotional glimpse of post-war Britain, still figuring out its new system of equality and care for all citizens. Something we’ve never really got the hang of, to be honest.