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Dancing Backwards


“Damaged people inflict damage in turn - or, harnessing their experiences, they can work towards reconciliation. The latter is the goal preoccupying Vi Hetherington as she boards the Queen Caroline on her way to New York in Salley ­Vickers’s graceful and absorbing Dancing Backwards (Fourth Estate £14.99). Formerly the poet HV St John, now a widow, she hopes to reconnect with Edwin, her once great friend and fellow poet, with whom she lived in Cambridge. On board there is plenty to divert, not least the dancing, and, to her surprise and pleasure, Vi is wooed into foxtrots. Yet the sea is the place for contemplation. Reprising her estrangement from Edwin, she subjects to prolonged scrutiny what he termed “the failures of nerve” - their mutual betrayals and Vi’s failure to support him at a crucial moment. Her inner journey as transformative as the physical one, she steps onto American soil regenerated and ready to face him. The author’s quiet and subtle prose is deceptive: nobody can dig down into the shrouded recesses of the human heart quite as forensically as she does.”  
Sunday Times

‘An all-pervading psychological astuteness; an acute but lightly worn sense of humankind's smallness within the created universe; subtle but precise literary allusions; and peerless story-telling’
Peter Stanford, Independent on Sunday - read more

"The novel’s central triumph (is) its portrait of a heroine steadily and with immense hope working through the dramas of her quietly difficult life.  This is perhaps Vickers’ most appealing characteristic: her essential optimism."
Lorna Bradbury, The Telegraph, 16 Jul 2009 - read more

"A wonderfully satisfying, richly rewarding journey for the reader"
Melissa Katsoulis, The Times, 11 July, 2009
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“Salley Vickers' marvellous new novel, Dancing a book about giving and taking and about the kindnesses we are capable of doing one another; it's also shot through with her typical brand of subtle humour and thinking characters who aren't afraid to be fully-formed. “
John Burnside, Scotland on Sunday, Summer reading

"Dancing Backwards is a delightful read - comic, sad, tender and utterly engrossing.  The tone, like much of Vickers' work, is intensely elegiac and reflective while also very funny.”
Lis O’Kelly, Observer

"In Yemen, the silversmiths work with the tiniest of shards, layering piece upon minute piece until they create an object that shimmers and dazzles.  So it is with the novels of Salley Vickers.  In Dancing Backwards, quotidian encounters, fleeting memories and subtle connections gather force and meaning to become a profound study of what love means, what it demands, and what it can do, both to us and for us.  Vickers's work transcends genre but she has planted her flag firmly as our pre-eminent novelist of modern, mature love."
Geraldine Brooks (Author of ‘March’)

"Dancing Backwards is a wise, generous book which glows with an unusual truthfulness. It has something quite rare in novels, a nuanced and credible honesty both in the details and the whole." 
Max Porter, Daunt Books

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Salley Vickers