Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Salley Vickers - Dancing backwards

I read this on a long train journey yesterday , it is wonderful. I really feel that this is up to the form of Miss Garnet's Angel. I was really bereft when is finished.
Here we have an newly widowed woman, booked on a cruise to New York. In New York she is to meet a former friend who she has had no contact with since she was married. Her children are grown up, her home empty.She is full of regrets about situations in her life, people she let go of, people she feels she has failed, potential opportunities missed. She gained a first at Cambridge and was a published poet before she married and had two children.
As the journey unfolds, so does she, and as she interacts with a variety of characters on board, she heals, to the point that she begins to write again. We learn about her past, her reason for the estrangement from Edwin who she is destined to meet in New York, we feel her guilt and confusion and come away with a strongly drawn character that we can empathise and identify with, and above all like. All the characters that she interacts with on board are deftly drawn, not quite caricatures, but instantly recognisable.They all have a story to tell, a contribution to make and in turn are affected by their interaction with Vi. I have a feeling that Salley must have done a cruise as a writer as Kimberley Crane, writer in residence is fab!
I wonder if this book can do for cruises what Miss Garnet did for Venice? The descriptions of the ever changing Atlantic Ocean were stunning. All in all a very reflective novel, what struck me is how important every human interaction is, even with strangers, perhaps even especially with strangers. This would make an excellent reading group choice.

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