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4.1 out of 5 stars
36
A Vicious Circle
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on 22 January 2018
A first book by Amanda Craig I have read but I'm definitely going to read some more. Although the novel is set in the 1990s, it could well talk about the literati life of the current state of affairs. It is at time shocking, the way journalists consider books for reviews and their attitude to authors but sadly it is not far from the truth. It was quite disheartening to read about the tribulations of the characters, their misconceptions about life and life aspirations. In particular, the journalists themselves who come across in a less than a flattering light. I really appreciate the honesty of this book, about the state of NHS, the poor in London living next door to the privileged, among other subjects.

I'm really glad it found a publisher after the dramatic events surrounding its initial publication. To think it could have fallen into obscurity because one journalist felt threatened by its content, well, it speaks volumes about the morality of some of those who claim to champion the book world.

It takes some time to get into the narrative though, and figure out who is who and the connection between the characters. The book reads far better after around 50 pages but it's a rewarding read nevertheless.
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on 27 August 2017
Brilliant; Amanda Craig spares no punches neither at the viciousness and effeteness of the publishing world nor the failings of our National Health service. Her characters are solid and believable and add flesh to the headlines you see in the real world. Her description of the extremes of motherhood, the suffering of an HIV victim and the struggles of the poor in the underbelly of a London are savage and visceral. I couldn't put it down and am left swimming in revelations and new ideas. A very good read.
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VINE VOICEon 11 September 2010
I have long admired Amanda Craig's book reviews, and this year I have also had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with her fiction. Starting with the excellent state-of-the-nation novel Hearts and Minds, I then read In a Dark Wood and now 'A Vicious Circle'. Lighter in tone than 'H&M', but still a novel with a social conscience, this is the best yet.

It seems incredible to me that 'The Vicious Circle' is not more widely known. With a writing style reminiscent of Jonathan Coe, and Kate Atkinson, it is hard to see why Craig does not share their popularity. Perhaps this novel's subject matter is the reason? 'The Vicious Circle' is an amusing, and often cutting, dissection of the publishing industry.

The characters are richly described, well rounded and believable. They have wonderful Dickensian sounding names; the irrepressible Ivo Sponge, the ghastly Mark Crawley and the corpulent newspaper proprietor Max de Monde (Who is Robert Maxwell, so thinly veiled even Salome would blush). The whole thing is a riot of backstabbing and one-upmanship.

The plot follows publishers, authors and book reviewers, and the toxic relationships that form between them. Throw in a socialite beauty, a jilted ex and a dashing doctor, and you have the ingredients for a most agreeable novel. Considering that Craig is prolific reviewer of literature, it seems odd that in this novel, critics come in for such hard time. Then again, if I wrote a novel based on my job, and the people I'd worked with, I'm not sure how many would still be speaking to me! 'A Vicious Circle' is a novel guaranteed to make you laugh, but it has its serious side too. Once again, the deprivation of the inner city and the invisible underclass of London are central to this novel.

One of the best things about Craig's novels is the reappearance of the same characters. Characters that are periphery figures in 'Hearts and Minds', are central to this novel, and the same is true of 'In a Dark Wood'. The more novels you read, the bigger picture you get of Craig's fictional London. Individually the novels are excellent, but read as whole, they mesh together to make a more satisfying, wider story. How she has kept it straight, over so many years, I don't know. Considering the overlap between AVC's and H&M's characters, it seems odd that this book hasn't been given a relaunch. If you enjoyed one, you are sure to like the other. OK, I am an unabashed fan of Amanda Craig's books, but I assure you, pick up any one of her novels and you will not be disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2009
Amanda Craig shows and amazing insight into the world of writing and publishing. A Vicious Circle is inhabited with journalists, literary agents, media moguls, editors and publicists. It is written with great verve and skill with well-rounded characters - few of which emerge as unflawed human beings. Many are shown as selfish, egotistical and, let's face it, vicious. The most sympathetic character is Grace, a single parent living on a run-down estate and eking out a living by babysitting and cleaning. Some characters are depicted as quite monstrous - but at the same time are quite believable.
Mary Quinn, an Irish waitress, is introduced to the world of book reviewing by her lover and takes to it like a duck to water. But she soon becomes as cruel and revengeful as many others and uses her reviewing as a weapon of choice rather than as a way of sharing literary insights. At the beginning of the book is the launch party for a travel book written by Max de Monde's daughter, Amelia. She is a "celebrity" - beautiful, vain and lazy but has still managed to get a book published - just as in real life! Without wishing to give the plot away her character was one of the surprises of the plot....
Some of the writing is very funny. When Mary queries as to whether some reviewers don't actually read the whole book she is told: "Good heaven, no. Skim, my darling, skim.....reviewers are paid far too little for it to be worth their while." Craig also has some lovely observations. She refers to infants in their buggies with the rain covers on as "boil-in-the-bag progeny".
A great read made even better by Amanda Craig's acid wit and sharp observations. And there is even a redemptive ending - how good is that?
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 February 2011
It's rare that one finds a novel that combines satire and serious thought as well as this. As a Cambridge graduate myself, I recognized many of the 'types' described in this novel, and found myself laughing out loud at times. But this is not just a humorous look at Oxbridge graduates living in London; it's also a very moving examination of motherhood, of the lives of single women (particularly Mary Quinn, the highly intelligent, book-passionate Irish girl who moves from a career as a waitress to being a well-regarded literary reviewer) and of the difficulties of forming lasting relationships. I loved the sections about working as a doctor in London (again very well observed, from what doctor friends have told me about their work). The class observations, and the whole range of society covered was also impressive, and Craig managed to avoid ever being polemical. A good read that will make you laugh, and also keep you thinking for a very long time.
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on 7 August 2011
Three stars might suggest it was O-Kayish, but I really loved reading it. The writing was so witty, entertaining and page turning it was a sheer delight to open the book. However, I did feel that there really was a need to create a major character who out-balanced all the others for a point-of-view perspective. Also, there were so many of them I forgot who some of the minor ones were.

Another crit is that some of the writing was stretched like elastic for amusing effect - largely conversations - whereas some more important aspects of relationships -for example the hideous nastiness of Mark and Amelia's marriage, and her relationship with her mother was bluntly skimmed.

However, I really like Ms Craig's style and will certainly read her bbacklist.
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on 3 March 2017
A very entertaining book, with rich, varied characters finding themselves in uncomfortable situations and behaving badly. The cut-throat publishing business is the master pupiteer manipulating their relationships, making it so much more interesting and topical than a simple human story. Although written 20 years ago, the cultural references are not that dated. The impeccable use of the English language, the careful constructing of each sentence, makes it very smooth to read.
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on 1 September 2017
Really didn't like this book. Populated by unlikeable characters doing foolish things. The author inhabits this world, so I suppose she knows what she's talking about, but do people really go on like this? I read it to the end, because it's a bit of a thing with me to do so, but I nearly gave up several times.
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on 18 August 2016
Great book and as relevant today as much as when it was published in the 90's.
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on 29 June 2017
Good read. Shocked by the author's afterword. Some characters were a bit unbelievable and extreme, but made for a very interesting eye-opening read. Different,original,well written and worth reading. Motherhood, relationships very true and thought provoking. First book that has prompted me to leave a review for a long time
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