Man, Two Women.
Vickers's portrayal of suppressed
grief is masterly. Though their emotions are in turmoil,
Bridget and Frances must act out the mechanics of living,
Frances soothing her temperamental artists while Bridget
impulsively buys a ramshackle house in Shropshire with
Peter's life insurance money. Woven through their recollections
of him, Peter's story begins to emerge: his first passionate
love affair; his secret conversion to Catholicism; and
his furtive love for a mysterious young prostitute who
somehow forms another triangle between himself and God,
sexual ecstasy making his "heart available to his
God in a new way". As he is mourned it is Frances,
in an uncharacteristic act of piety, who in inadvertently
summons him from "the place of windy dark"
to begin his ghostly journey towards salvation.
The women make journeys too,
even as new disruptive forces enter their lives in the
form of a charming Iranian lodger, a tortoise-loving
artist and a Shakespeare-quoting Shropshire chimney
sweep. For a while this is a serious book, it is also
a very funny one, with characters who could have stepped
straight out of an Ealing comedy. And if the authorial
presence occasionally seems overbearingly all-knowing,
the reader is disarmed when Vickers acknowledges of
one many gnomic utterances that "that remark was
either extremely banal or extremely wise".
Instances of the Number 3 is
touching, thought-provoking and entertaining. I suspect
it may also be extremely wise.
Mary Gibson, The Tablet,