The year is 1950, and with the NHS two years into its stride, Lenny and Miriam are dispatched to the Gwendo, a newly constructed modernist sanatorium in the Kent countryside that offers free care to all, from aristocrats to car dealers. At their first glimpse of the sanatorium’s pallid inmates and the repressive regime of its tortured director Gerald “the Way of the Patient” Limb, Lenny and Miriam want only to run back to civilisation – and yet they stay, mesmerised by the promise of free treatment and unrationed food. There they make improbable alliances: Lenny with the Daimler salesman Colin Cox, Miriam with the bookish Oxford undergraduate Valerie. … [Read more...] about The Dark Circle by Linda Grant review – heartbreak and hope in postwar London
London review of books blog
This is not a recent or sudden development (nor is it a new critique), but one that has been creeping up on us since the birth of merit-based recruitment practices and modern universities in the 19th century. But it has accelerated since the 1960s, in tandem with deindustrialisation and the expansion of higher education, and tipped even further towards “Head” skills with the 1992 conversion of polytechnics into universities. Encouraged by New Labour, educators became focused on funnelling children via specialist A-levels into universities, and 40% of job openings now demand a degree. Goodhart finds this growing “graduatisation” especially regrettable, nowhere more so than in nursing, a profession he discusses in some depth. … [Read more...] about Head Hand Heart by David Goodhart review – does getting a degree matter too much?
When he did get elected the British embassy was nonetheless stunned, and found itself scrambling to catch up. Darroch sought out Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Wilbur Ross and other members of Trump’s court. He buttonholed the man himself at a ball. At the inauguration, Darroch listened to a speech he calls “primordially angry in tone”. He fixed an early visit by May to the White House. … [Read more...] about Collateral Damage by Kim Darroch review – insulted by Trump, abandoned by Johnson
The novel accelerates in the final chapters as the Padre prepares Priscilla for a wedding and local unrest builds. Some of Davies’s footing comes a little unstuck here, not least because the psychology of the closing moments is not wholly convincing, but what a fascinating novel this remains. … [Read more...] about The Mission House by Carys Davies review – a jewel in the hill town
In “Bad Boy”, a couple involve their guileless friend in a sadistic relationship. In “Sardines”, a spiteful daughter invokes black magic as her mother considers switching her husband’s new girlfriend’s lube for superglue. In “Scarred”, a woman conjures her ideal partner, only to destroy him with her solipsistic wishes. In my favourite story, “The Boy in the Pool”, Kath tracks down her teenage crush, remembered from a long-ago movie, and delivers him as a gift to an eager bachelorette party. In this collection dignity is an illusion, as fleeting as a glimpse of a perfect on-screen boy. At one point Kath thinks: “What a fantastical place adulthood has turned out to be: with the power of social media and a thousand dollars, she’s summoned Taylor’s dream crush out of an ancient VHS tape.” Roupenian is skilled at illustrating how second-hand desire can be; how often our wants are sad mimicries of someone … [Read more...] about You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian review – dark short stories