A Vicious Circle 1996
AN Wilson, Evening Standard
"It's like Dickens without the long-winded bits. It makes you laugh, it makes you blub an excellent and entertaining read." Val Hennessy, Daily Mail
brilliant disquisition on the way we live now: as important
a look at our capital city - and just as funny - as
Martin Amis's London Fields. No wonder some people mention
it in the same breath as 'Vanity Fair'. Its treatment
of ambition, of social rise and fall, warrant the comparison
Cressida Connolly, The Oldie.
The story involves seven characters living in London in the mid 1990s, who rise and fall professionally and in their personal lives, according to the moral choices they make. The story itself is constructed to mimic vicious circularity (the design on the cover), defined by Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable as: "A chain of circumstances in which the solving of a problem creates a new problem, which makes the original problem more difficult of solution."
The main thrust of the plot concerns two women, Mary and Amelia. Mary is a poor young Irish waitress at the Slouch Club in Soho. Amelia is the rich, spoilt daughter of Max de Monde, a newspaper magnate. Both are in love with Mark Crawley, an ambitious freelance journalist who is sleeping with both. Ivo Sponge, another journalist and trickster, forces Mary to understand that Mark has been two-timing her, and she confronts him. However, Amelia has told Mark that he has made her pregnant. Mark, forced to choose between the two, marries Amelia. Mary attempts suicide in the flat lent to her by Adam, her gay best friend.
She is resuscitated, and so meets Tom Viner, a junior doctor struggling in the National Health Service. Tom is one of the links between the world of the rich (he becomes Amelia and Mark's lodger) and the poor. Grace, a single parent whose own mother Joy is a homeless beggar, seems to be excluded from the world in which the other characters move. She is, in fact, intimately connected with it.
Mary finds a new direction through Ivo, who has his own reasons for wishing tos be revenged on Mark. He advises her on how to become a book reviewer. The catch is that in order to do this, she has to betray her one true friend, Adam, whose novel is about to be published. As Mary rises in the world, Amelia, changed by motherhood and her father's corrupt business dealings, falls. For in a vicious circle, nothing is certain except change ..