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.
So, this is another book I read as part of my goal of reading all the books shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize. I was a bit hesitant at first about this as the blurb didn’t look very interesting at all however I ended up being enchanted by this novel.
The main two characters are Lenny and Miriam who are twin siblings both diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanatorium to recover. While there, they have to deal with the variety of treatments and deal with the knowledge that a cure exists but is not yet available. The story follows them as they make friends and just cope with their time there.
The novel moves at a very slow pace, showing the monotony of their day-to-day lives and the issues they deal with. It also is excellent at portraying a view of England just after the second world war and some of the best parts of the novel were just focusing on the society and how it was changing. The characters were all excellent and I enjoyed reading about their growth as they got to know each other and deal with the fact that the once exclusive sanatorium is now open to the “lower classes” due to the NHS.
This book is a delightful journey focusing on sanatoriums in the period of their decline and how it affected the characters both while they were there and the lingering effects it had on the rest of their lives. The end of the book shows us the characters in the future and how their lives developed after leaving the sanatorium which I really enjoyed as I’d grown attached to many and was keen to find out what had happened to them.
I can definitely see why this book was shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize and it’s definitely one of my favourites so far. I would definitely recommend it and it makes me glad I’m doing this personal challenge as it’s the sort of book I never would have picked up myself.
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