Seven Reasons Why You Really Must Read Salley Vickers

“Dancing Backwards” by Salley Vickers (2010) – 264 pages


So far I’ve read three novels by Salley Vickers : “Miss Garnet’s Angel”, “”The Other Side of You”, and now “Dancing Backwards”.   All three have been a pleasure, and I encourage all of you to read her novels.  Here are seven reasons why you really must read Salley Vickers.  

 1. She can take a simple plot and make it sparkle.  “Dancing Backwards” is about a woman in her forties taking a luxury cruise ship from England to the United States by herself.  The novel relates her experiences on board the ship during the cruise, a simple idea from which Vickers obtains a lot of mileage. 

 2. She is clever in unexpected places.

His special favorite was ‘Miss Marple’. mainly because he had become expert at second-guessing the murderer.  They had a weekly prize of a bottle of wine for whoever could spot the villain first.  Edwin usually won.

“The trick is to spot the person most unlikely to have committed the crime.”

“In that case,” Vi pointed out, “surely Miss Marple should commit at least one murder.” 


3. Her novels are not weighty tomes about old Kings and Queens of England. 

 4. Her novels are definitely literary, yet they are as light as a soufflé.  You can earn literary brownie points, yet still have fun. 

“Vi, what happened? You really loathed Bruno, or said you did.”

“I don’t know Ed.  I can’t explain.”

“Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett”

“I wouldn’t say that fitted the situation.” 


5. Salley Vickers has got rhythm.  Dancing Backwards.  She knows how to interweave her various stories gracefully.

 6. Somehow England never seems to have a clue about its great woman novelists.  Salley Vickers reminds me of the novelist Elizabeth Taylor.  Elizabeth Taylor won no major literary prizes, but she turned our one stunning novel after another.  Each novel is distinctly literary yet is also fun to read.   I can honestly say I’ve read all Taylor’s novels and books of short stories.  Which other writer has had two of her novels turned into movies during the last five years?   So far I’ve found this same uniformity of quality in Salley Vickers’ novels.

 7. She can be profound in her novels, but the profundity comes up in ordinary casual conversation without seeming forced.   

 “As they parted Miss Foot said, “I enjoyed our meeting.  Grace and mercy are also intended for the self.”

 “How does one ‘know’ things?  Everyone knows everything, really.  We just hide it from ourselves.”




8 responses to this post.

  1. I read Dancing Backwards last year and liked it a lot. Thanks for the reminder to seek out more of her books.



  2. I love Salley Vickers and second (or third?) your enthusiasm.

    That reminds me: I have another book by her somewhere. Where did I put it?



    • Hi kat,
      Yes, Salley Vickers is one of those writers whose books I look forward to with pleasure rather than as a task. I know, I’m a man, but there are some woman writers that I enjoy.



  3. Hi Teresa,
    I think it was from Kim at Reading Matters where I first discovered Salley Vickers. It is the lightness of her novels that keeps me coning back.



  4. Ah yes, she’s one of my favourite authors — and I was really excited to discover, just yesterday, that she’s got a new one coming out in November called “The Cleaner of Chartres”.

    This is the synopsis:

    “There is something special about the medieval Cathedral of Chartres, with its mismatched spires, glinting sundial, blue-lit arches and mesmerizing labyrinth, and in particular about the mysterious woman, named Agnès Morel, who is to be found cleaning it each morning. No one quite knows where she came from – not the diffident Abbé Paul, nor lonely Professor Jones, whose chaotic existence she helps to organise; nor Philippe Nevers, whose neurotic sister and newborn child she cares for; nor even the irreverent young restorer, Alain Fleury, who works alongside her each day. Following an unexpected encounter in the Cathedral one day, though, the spectre of Agnès’ past returns, inspiring malicious speculation. As the rumours grow darker, Agnès is forced to confront her history, and so the mystery of her origins finally unfolds.”



    • Hi Kimbofo,
      Yes it was your excellent blog that introduced me to Salley Vickers. She’s probably my favorite discovery of recent years, light yet profound. It probably will be a while before Salley Vickers’ new novel gets published here. It sounds like it may be slightly darker than her others.



  5. Your seven reasons to read Salley Vickers is inspired. I had to laugh at #3, she doesn’t write weighty tomes about kings and queens of England, as I am currently reading Bringing Up the Bodies. Such questions as, now, how soon after Katherine died was Anne Boleyn beheaded? seem to come up regularly. I read The Other Side of You ages ago and my chief memory was that I found it hard to see the narrator as a man and was undone by that. You’ve inspired me to try her again, especially as I do like Elizabeth Taylor.



    • Hi Charlotte,
      I suppose ‘Bringing Up the Bodies” is more exciting than ‘Wolf Hall’ with the beheadings, etc. The question for me always was ‘Who was the mother of Elizabeth I ?’ I’ve figured out the answer to that question would be Anne Boleyn which is kind of ironic since she is one of the beheaded. Still haven’t decided if I will read ‘Bringing Up the Bodies’, rather a big undertaking (chuckle).
      I do remember being somewhat unconvinced with the male narrator in “The Other Side of You”, but for some reason that did not interfere with my enjoyment of the novel.



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