Bailey’s Prize 2017 Short List
The Dark Circle sets off vibrantly. Grant introduced twins Lenny and Miriam, two cocky slightly common Londoners of Jewish decent. After WW2 they have picked up the pieces and have started to live life to the fullest, to be brought down unexpectedly by a severe case of TB. They have to leave London and set out for a clinic in Kent. Originally for private patients only the NHS has made the arrival of the likes of Lenny and Miriam possible: those who previously would have had no choice but to die out of sight, at home.
The Dark Circle is not just the story of Lenny and Miriam, it is also a tale of the fight against TB and of the clash between the upper classes and the streetwise lower classes who have started to claim their rightful place in society . Lenny and Miriam cause an upheaval in the clinic, new arrival Pretski, a Yank, stirs things up completely. The once accepting patients all of a sudden start to grasp at life, causing a serious case of unrest with the staff that would have preferred to stay in the medieval times as far as a cure for TB is concerned. A new successful medicine is reluctantly introduced, strict rules are loosened. The end of the clinic is near.
Grant does not manage to keep up the dynamics of the first chapters. The last part especially completely lacks the initial vibrancy. In the final chapters Grant takes us along in the lives of Lenny and Miriam after having been cured. Those chapters feel like a kind of obligatory round-up in order to show that those born in the slums do have a chance at a better life. By then it has become quite clear that those suffering from TB were treated in an appalling way before an effective cure was found. It has also become quite clear that society is about to change dramatically. The proof does not add to the quality of the novel, it diminishes. The dull final part does not do justice to the dynamic twins at all, a pity.