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The Other Side of You

‘There is no cure for being alive’

This novel concerns the area of Salley Vickers’ own expertise, the practice of psychoanalysis. It concerns a psychiatrist, who has undertaken a psychoanalytic training, treating a patient who has made a serious attempt at suicide. David McBride, the analyst, is himself damaged by an early childhood experience of watching his brother die under a lorry. It is this early acquaintance with grief, and the guilt of being the survivor which directs his choice of his profession.

The patient he is treating, Elizabeth Cruikshank has lost her faith in life after a love affair with a man she meets and loses and then meets again and again loses through a fatally wrong choice. Much of her story takes place in Rome and explores the paintings of Caravaggio whose great panting The Supper at Emmaus inspires the title of the book. The title comes from T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the road
There is always another one walking beside you
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 
But who is that on the other side of you?

and is a reference to the story in St Luke’s gospel of journey to Emmaus where Christ travels with two disciples who fail to recognize him. They invite him to supper wit them and as he breaks bread his true identity is revealed and he vanishes from sight.

Salley Vickers says of her fourth novel, “I was interested in the similarity between the story of the Road to Emmaus and what happens in successful psychoanalysis or therapy. As Dr McBride says, ‘This is the kind of thing which can happen, I suggest, when we dare truly to engage. Two people with open hearts, and the willingness to speak from them, create a reality more powerful and salient than either individual. That is the essence of the meaning of that journey to Emmaus celebrated in this painting here. What transpired between myself and my patient was the emergence of a truth, born of our meeting, which only came to life through our conversation. It was not a miracle, except the kind of everyday miracle which occurs when stories are told, and heard, and freely exchanged in conditions of love and trust. “ The Emmaus story is really a myth (it appears in only one gospel) and like the story of Tobit has been a favourite with painters over the years. As David McBride says of his patients, we ‘shouldn’t have favourites’, but this novel might be a favourite of mine because of the fusion of psychology, art and the remedial power of story telling.


 
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