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The Dark Circle: Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017 Hardcover – 3 Nov 2016

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (3 Nov. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034900675X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349006758
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 3.3 x 16.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 79,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Exhilaratingly good . . . This is a novel whose engine is flesh and blood, not cold ideas . . . Grant brings the 1950s - that odd, downbeat, fertile decade between war and sexual liberation - into sharp, bright, heartbreaking focus (Christobel Kent Guardian)

A Grant novel is always a treat . . . Grant captures the stigma that surrounded TB perfectly (Evening Standard)

A writer whose language crackles with vitality and whose descriptive powers are working at such a high level (Spectator)

Linda Grant brings a forgotten slice of social and medical history to life by conjuring a rich cast of disparate - though equally desperate - characters observed with wry humour and affection to produce an absorbing and profoundly moving story (John Harding Daily Mail)

The novel is funny but also poignant . . . I loved it (Stylist)

The Dark Circle is, beneath its narrative surface, fiercely political. She poses a large, naggingly relevant, question. What would (will?) privatisation of the NHS mean? Read this fine, persuasive, moving novel and contemplate - if you can dare to - that awful possibility (John Sutherland The Times)

Fascinating . . . a revealing insight: both funny and illuminating, it is a novel about what it means to treat people well, medically, emotionally and politically (Hannah Beckerman Observer)

Grant is so good at conjuring up atmosphere and writes with earthy vivacity (Anthony Gardner Mail on Sunday)

Contemporary issues linger ominously in Grant's margins, silently enriching what's already an astonishingly good period piece (Lucy Scholes Independent)

Her cast of characters is nothing less than a portrayal of post-war, class-riven Britain from the indolent aristocracy, to Oxford-educated blue stockings, and from car salesmen to the bottom of the pile, German emigres and East End Jewish lowlifes . . .This is a novel, above all, about trauma caused by the "dark circle" of tuberculosis, and results in a "tight circle" of comradeship. The ambitious reach of the novel is wisely held in check by its focus on a time when Lenny and Miriam had to discover for themselves what it was to be human (Jewish Chronicle)

A rich, engaging novel, further proof that Grant can conjure up a special mood in a specific period with great humour (Ben Lawrence Sunday Telegraph)

Extraordinarily affecting (Alex Preston Observer)

An extraordinary depiction of the physical and emotional experience of illness. She marvellously communicates the poignancy of youth and sexuality in the presence of impending death. Grant's voice is unlike any other writer; so immediate and engaged even when writing historical fiction (Natasha Walter)

An amazing subject, wonderfully depicted, with plausible people whom I grew to love . . . the most surprising plot developments. So original and full of life (Joan Bakewell)

Book Description

The new novel by the acclaimed author of Upstairs at the Party and the Booker-shortlisted The Clothes on Their Backs.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Post-war austerity London in 1949, and feisty brother and sister twins living in Finsbury Park, Lenny and Miriam Lenskey are shocked when they are both diagnosed with tuberculosis. They are sent, courtesy of the new National Health Service, to stay at a well-appointed sanatorium, known as the Gwendo in rural Kent. The regime of passive rest, very often in the open air comes as a shock to them both, as well as having to be in close confinement to both the staff and their fellow patients. The promised panacea of the streptomycin injections (which did eventually banish the worst threat of TB as a mostly fatal disease) is frustratingly just around the corner. The twins accept that ideas of a quick return to London are not realistic and they are sucked into the passive routines of the institution as well as their deteriorating health. But when a dynamic young American, Arthur Persky arrives, he shakes matters up for Lenny and Miriam and the other patients. The establishment of the NHS also shakes affairs up for the medical director and staff of the Gwendo – no longer is it an elite establishment for the wealthy. All classes of British post war society are eligible for treatment there.
This is a superbly well-narrated story of a time in British society that is not that long ago, but now seems an eons past. It is rooted in the conventions and culture of those days, and is entertaining, occasionally amusing and thought-provoking.
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Format: Hardcover
Another great read from Linda Grant. This one examines a forgotten piece of social history, the treatment of TB before the introduction of streptomycin. The setting of an ultra modern sanatorium in the Kent countryside which has just opened its doors to NHS patients allows Linda Grant to investigate not only changing attitudes to illness but also to class and authority. The resigned and passive lives of the private patients are shaken up by the arrival of Lenny and Miriam, Jewish twins from the East End of London, and Arthur Persky, an American merchant seaman. Parts of this book - the treatments for TB which now seem barbaric, and the closed children's ward at the top of the building - are harrowing. But it is also a story that is full of wit and humour and hope, and celebrates the indomitable human spirit. The writing is sharp and vivid and the many disparate characters are all convincing. This is the book I will be giving for Christmas and recommending to friends.
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Format: Hardcover
I almost didn't finish this book but am so glad I did.

It is the end of the war and two Jewish East End twins Lenny and Miriam find themselves in a sanatorium when Lenny is diagnosed with TB and his sister is also taken there in case he has infected her.

The sanatorium is in Kent, far away from their London roots, where everything is strange and frightening but their close bond with each other enables them to survive in this alien place. Miriam is separated from Lenny straight away and has to have bed rest sharing a room with Valerie who has been in the sanatorium some time. Lenny shares a room with a car dealer Colin Cox.

We are introduced to the other patients, ex servicemen, a university graduate, an aristocrat and a mysterious German woman and they are all at different stages of the illness, some are chronic and unlikely to recover despite the treatment and others respond well and will eventually leave but they all seem to stay at least a year maybe longer. The sanatorium is run by Dr Limb who instills in the patients that they have to learn to be patient. No one is forced to stay, it's not a prison and although they initially fight against it and want to go home, Lenny and Miriam eventually become accepting of their situation and as Lenny puts it 'the fight seems to go out of him'.

All patients are waiting for the new drug streptomycin to arrive which they had heard would cure them and until that comes they pass their time as best they can.

I almost didn't finish this book because it was quite depressing in the early chapters with graphic descriptions of treatments such as collapsing lungs and excruciating needle procedures that quite frankly I'd rather not know about.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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For me, a book has to satisfy different criteria. Obviously it must be well written and it must engage me. I don’t need it to be an easy read but I don’t want it to be so complicated that I have to make notes to keep track of everything. Finally, I like to learn something. The Dark Circle satisfied all of this and more.
I was aware of the situation prevailing after the end of the war in terms of rationing, housing problems, and crime. I also knew that TB was considered a killer at that time. What I was unaware of was the treatment of TB, complete bed-rest etc., and the conditions endured in the sanatoriums, as well as the impact of the National Health Service. This information gave a fascinating facet to the book.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Linda Grant since discovering her 2000 Orange Prize Winner – When I Lived in Modern Times. Grant, born in Liverpool in 1951, often draws on family roots as the starting point for her writing. Her family background is Central and Eastern European Jewish, and the central characters, and themes, in several of her books explore the history of what it means to be ‘the outsider’, even, the despised or reviled outsider.

So I was delighted to be offered The Dark Circle as an ARC.

Grant continues with the theme of looking at society from the point of the view of the outcast. The setting is 1949, and society is changing – most particularly, the foundation of the NHS the previous year gives the novel its particular framework. The central characters are twins, Lenny and Miriam, working class, Jewish, aspirational.

Despite the events of that recently ended war, anti-Semitism is alive and well. The book opens memorably, with savage political point and with humour. Sharp young Lenny, Teddy Boy in the making, a young man with prospects in property, is, at age 18 more interested in impressing the girls. He is in love, or at least in lust, with a sexy young Italian girl. He is up in Soho on his way to his appointment with the army – conscription, National Service, was not abolished until 1960. He finds himself caught up in a demonstration, which turns out to be one organised by anti-Semites. Lenny interrupts the demo and the hate-filled speaker quite choicely. Grant has a knack for making serious points without being po-faced, indeed using wit so that the reader snorts whilst getting the punch-point, the snapshot she wants us to think and feel about.
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