‘Of the many tyrannies which constrain us it is extraordinary how pervasive are those that persuade us to follow other people’s notions of what we want rather than our own desires’
‘Dancing Backwards’, Salley Vickers’ sixth novel, continues with the themes of earlier books, memory and the ways it can affect our contemporary lives. In reassessing memory, our history can be altered and lives can take unexpected turns and make news starts. The novel also explores dance and poetry, two of Salley’s own past-times.
Violet Hetherington, formerly the poet H.V. St John, has taken the rash step of joining a transatlantic cruise ship to New York, to visit Edwin, an old friend of her student days. As she makes the six day crossing she relives the traumatic events which led to her losing Edwin’s friendship and abandoning her career as a young poet for the safety of marriage and domesticity.
Despite her natural reserve, Vi meets a rich variety of passengers travelling with her, who affect her understanding of her own past. Most significantly, she meets Dino the dancing host, whose motives in befriending Vi are shady but who teaches her to ballroom dance and inadvertently helps her to recover form her past.
Moving between the late sixties and the present day, ‘Dancing Backwards’ is written with the lightness of touch and psychological insight which characterises Salley Vickers’ acclaimed work. This bittersweet novel has been called subtle, poignant and wonderfully entertaining.