‘The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalisingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.’
I have read and very much enjoyed a couple of Linda Grant’s books to date. With all of the hype currently surrounding this novel, particularly as it has just been shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize, I was left distinctly unimpressed. Whilst I am all for historical novels set in and around the sanitorium, this fell rather flat for me.
The Dark Circle is interesting in terms of its historical setting, and whilst the story begins in rather a promising manner, there is no real consistency to the piece. I also felt that it was sorely lacking in terms of its characters. They were shallow and stereotypical; the only one whom I wanted to know more about when she was introduced was Valerie, and she soon succumbed to being just as predictable, naively privileged as she was, as Lenny and Miriam. The characters in The Dark Circle are not realistic enough to carry the whole, and the lack of plot hooks or twists makes the whole feel rather lacking.
The Dark Circle has an awful lot of promise, but I am afraid that I did not find it lived up to this. The final part of the novel felt altogether unnecessary; rather trite and irrelevant. I did not care enough about the protagonists to want to know what happened to them in their post-sanitorium lives. Sadly, <i>The Dark Circle</i> disappointed me, and I am now in two minds as to whether to read any more of Grant’s novels in future.