The Dark Circle by Linda Grant.
My reading order of the six Bailey's Prize books has been totally random - it really was just the way they came out of the box - but this book was possibly the one I'd have either read first or saved until last through choice.
I've read and enjoyed other books by Grant and the blurb of this book really made me think it would be up my street - a post war historical fiction set in a TB sanatorium in Kent. I've been a long time fan of the Chalet School books by Elinor Brent Dyer and the plots of many of these books (at least in the early days) focus around TB and cures. I also love Betty Macdonald's The Plague and I which is her autobiographical account of her time as a TB patient. There was much to look forward to in this book...
It lived up to all my hopes, I raced through it and quickly became invested in the lives of Miriam and her twin Lenny both in London and on their transfer to Kent. It was a real page turner and from chapter to chapter I never knew which way the plot was going to go - it was as unpredictable as the disease itself.
The depiction of post war antisemitism was a shock to me and as a modern reader hard to read as it was just accepted and not commented on. I've read books about racism post war following the arrival of the Windrush but I was taken aback at the anti Jewish sentiment - in my naivety I'd have thought that news of the concentration camps, and the cinema newsreels, would have stopped this.
However now I've finished the book I feel a little empty - like after you've had a Chinese meal, you are full at the time but then hungry again just a little while later. There were lots of plot strands and I'm not entirely sure that they all worked out - I can see that they were all necessary to build the tale but after the half way point they all felt rushed and unexplored. I didn't lose track of anyone or any story which is a positive thing with so many strands but I am left wanting to know more about all of them.
I really enjoyed the story here but I am greedy I wanted much more from it. Another great read but one that is far more disposable than many of the others.
Now to spend some time thinking over the six shortlisted titles and pick my own favourites...