Notes from the 2017 Bailey’s Prize Ambassador: The Dark Circle – Linda Grant

My final #BaileysPrize book and interestingly the one I might have picked first if I hadn’t gone for random selection. Grant is an author I’ve read and liked before and the book with a just post-war setting and family saga to boot really ticks all my reading boxes!

I enjoyed this book and raced through it but apart from being a good read I don’t have a lot more to say. The characters were all fine and the bulk of the plot interesting but after the five other books on the shortlist this just felt a little flat.

It was interesting to read about the change in medical approaches at the very birth of the NHS, and also the, sadly still relevant, battle over the need for new drugs but their expense. I was also a little shocked at the post war antisemitism portrayed – in my naiveté I did think that after the shocking images from Germany at the end of WW2 that this wasn’t an issue in Britain but I am always pleased to learn things and have my assumptions challenged!

The ending of the book did seem out of kilter with the majority of the book but reading an online Twitter q&a with Grant I can now see the point of this so I am more accepting.  I suppose that as I am still thinking about this book a week after finishing it that it was a good book and a worthy contender for the Bailey’s Prize but it did feel like any other historical fiction book in many ways and certainly not as stand out as the other 5 on the short list.

I’m now weighing up my thoughts on all 6 books and trying to decide which one I really want to win the 2017 Bailey’s Prize. I’m also tempted to go back and read all of the longlist to see why it was these 6 that made the cut!

Sarah

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