The Dark Circle

So, as I said in my last post, I have planned for myself to read plenty more this year, as well as writing more too. I am going to start reviewing the books I read so I have a sort-of time frame in mind to get things completed. Here is the first review of 2018.

The Dark Circle follows a group of people who have nothing in common. Nothing in common at all except the disease which plagues them. As Linda Grant’s blurb describes, London-dwelling twins Lenny and Miriam are diagnosed with Tuberculosis, a disease now said to be almost extinct but rife and deadly in the 50s. With the rise of the Labour Party and the brand new National Health Service in full swing, the pair are sent to a sanatorium in order to be cured of their illnesses.

If I were to summarise my favourite themes the novel encapsulates, it would have to be how Grant explores friendship between women, religion with a focus on Judaism, the disparity between the classes in Britain and the fragility of life itself.

The story puts an interesting twist on the commonly-used phrase ‘a rollercoaster of emotions’, in the sense that one emotion is felt more than others. Boredom is experienced by all the characters, boredom which enrages them and provokes an entirely different response from each. This is the main reason why I enjoyed this book to such an extent. I felt myself becoming more and more enthralled upon the meeting of each new person that Lenny and Miriam came into contact with, because I was desperate to hear their take on the real disease at the helm of the sanatorium- boredom.

Valerie was one of my favourite characters, possibly because I can relate to her in some ways. She was a graduate of English Literature, always thinking of books, always pondering what her purpose was, and what would become of herself after Tuberculosis if she was ever cured from it. Her friendship with Miriam in particular interested me. They were from completely different areas of the country, had entirely different origins and outlooks on life, and yet they became great friends. They also struck the feminist reader in me, appealing to my senses by highlighting the strength women can show in both mind (in Valerie’s case) and spirit (in Miriam’s). Miriam was what I would like to call a bad babe (!!) She dressed provocatively because it made her feel good, she spoke her mind and she was confident she knew what she wanted. Valerie learnt a lot from her and I don’t think she expected, which makes me love the two all the more.

I also thoroughly enjoyed how Grant took on romance in the story. It didn’t take central focus and didn’t drive the plot half as much as platonic love pushed it forward, making a nice change from a lot of other novels I have read in recent months. Without giving too much away about the specific romances that occurred, I loved how Grant described certain scenarios, and found her close contact with the time period, the communities involved and the cultural circumstances very lovely.

I was trying to decide if I should rate the books I review out of ten, or something like that, but I have chosen against it. Every book is unique and every book has something different to bring to the table. It would be wrong to compare them when many of the books I read will simply have nothing in common with each other, much like the characters of The Dark Circle.

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