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The Other Side of You Hardcover – 3 Apr 2006


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; 1st edition (3 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007165447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007165445
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.2 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 868,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Salley Vickers' subtle, witty style and clear-eyed observation of human nature has been compared to Penelope Fitzgerald and Barbara Pym. She has worked as a university teacher of literature, specialising in Shakespeare, and in adult education, where she specialised in the literature of the ancient world. She is a trained analytical psychologist and lectures widely on the connections between literature, psychology and religion. She divides her time between London, Venice and the West Country.

Product Description

Review

‘There is something rare and special about Vickers as a novelist. In exploring the connections between faith and imagination, art and redemption, religion and science in an intelligent, unusual but very readable way, she manages to touch something buried deep in all of us. It gives her work a quietly compelling quality.’ Peter Stanford, Independent

‘Kindred spirits and soul-mates are at the heart of Salley Vickers’ new novel set in a South Coast psychiatric institution and in Rome…This is a fine and multi-layered novel which suggests that suffering is necessary and that opportunities for happiness should be taken whenever offered.’ Daily Mail

‘Compelling.’ Alex Clark, Observer

‘Ferociously readable.’ Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph

‘Love and pain, death and life, self-knowledge and insensibility – all these big, vital themes converge in this moving, utterly engrossing novel.’ Guardian

‘The lives of the characters in this gently absorbing novel continue to resonate with the failures, possibilities, regrets and redemptions – consoled and mirrored by art – that we all endure.’ Carol Ann Duffy, Telegraph

From the Author

SALLEY VICKERS speaks about THE OTHER SIDE OF YOU

1.What was your inspiration for The Other Side of You?

All four of the novels I’ve written grew out of subjects I’ve been mulling over for a long time. In this book, undoubtedly the situation, a psychiatrist and his patient, was born out of the years I spent working as a psychoanalyst. I always felt that between these two people trying to reach the truth about something there hovered a third entity, an unrealised invisible presence which, if things went well, ultimately resolved into a new truth. But also, psychoanalysis/therapy is about people telling their story. The analyst/therapist listens to the story and tries to make sense of it and this is not unlike writing a novel. You listen for the story and try to make sense of it. Very often, as in therapy, with writing a novel you don’t understand the meaning of the story till you reach the end.

2.In what way do you hope The Other Side of You might resonate with your readers?

It’s a book about the problem of love, principally the problem of believing that we are worthy of love and that is something most of us have trouble with. Elizabeth, the female character, for most understandable reasons, has faltered over choosing a life where she will be loved. Not recognising our meaning for another person, or their’s to us, is a common human theme. As David says, we live life forwards but we only comprehend its meaning for us backwards, so we tend to act before we understand.

3. Your novels have a strong artistic element and in this one Caravaggio is central. Can you explain why?

I naturally think in images so paintings are almost as rich a source of ideas for me as the written word. And a great painting will very often capture the essence of a great story. Caravaggio is a painter I came to late. In fact, rather as I was suspicious of Venice before I fell in love with it, I was unsure about Caravaggio before I began to write this book. Then one day I went to look again at the painting in the London National Gallery, The Supper at Emmaus, and I suddenly saw that it was answering a question in the book.

4. Why is Rome important in this novel?

Rome is the city with which Caravaggio himself most identified. He was desperately trying to make has way back to Rome when he died. And his greatest works are to be found there. But it is also a city where life and death rub shoulders. Thomas says you feel the presence of the dead there more than any other city in the world and that’s a feeling I share. The book explores the relationship between the living and the dead, the way the dead live on within us, through memory, but also through the power of art and story.

5. What are your thoughts about the recent discovery of the Caravaggio paintings found in Loches, France?

You could have knocked me down with a feather! I learned of them two days after the book went to print and the novel ends with discovery of a Caravaggio with the same title as one of the two discovered: ‘The Journey to Emmaus’. What is odder still, is that Thomas traces this painting through a collection in France. It was almost as if the novel knew something I didn’t know as I was writing it.

6. Where does your love of art come from?

I can’t answer that, any more than I can say where my love of reading comes from. It has always been a given and one I’ve been grateful for. When I write a book I can see the jacket and it’s always a painting.

7. Do you believe that art is fundamentally honest, that as Thomas says it is ‘without precepts and morals and shams’

All art should aspire to be honest and great art manages it. The greater the artist the less they will make things up, which sounds a bit of paradox since in a sense ‘making things up’ is an artist’s job. But the ‘making up’ should be without pretence and in some way reflect or recreate the real.

8. What made you decide to have a male narrator?

Originally I was going to write the book in two voices, David’s and Elizabeth’s. But I got captivated by David’s voice and in the end that was how the novel wanted to be written. The female voice didn’t convince. But the novel is called The Other Side of You so possibly I wrote the narrator with my other, ‘male’, side. And I enjoyed doing it.

9. Your characters have an interesting way of reacting. David is the doctor and Elizabeth the patient and yet in the end she appears to have more effect on him than the other way round.

I’m not sure that’s true. The response between David and Elizabeth is mutual, and that is really the point. It is only because she makes such a dent in his repressed feelings that he can help her, because she feels a correspondence with his inadequacies. But the dent also helps him because it makes him face things he has ‘lived apart from’ to use his own phrase. I say somewhere in the book that emotion is catching, good or bad. And it is the case that we catch feeling from each other as easily as diseases, but luckily sometimes the feelings are more productive than diseases and can lead to new life.

10 What are your feelings having written the book?

The period after finishing a novel is a mournful one. You miss the world you’ve created like hell, and all the characters, with whom you’ve been living intimately for years. Seeing them go off into the world is like seeing your children go off to school. The only cure is to get down to the next one quick.


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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By P.J.D. on 27 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautfully told story. It is a compelling read, perfectly paced and wise while appearing entirely natural.
Essentially, this is a love story but told through the veil of a psychiatrist's case study. I found the narrator, Dr MacBride, a sympathetic voice and his patient, Elizabeth, a haunting character who begins quite palely and then grows in significance both for the narrator and for us.
I also loved the scenes in Rome, which I know well, and are done very authentically, and aptly, and the descriptions of Caravaggio's paintings are masterly. Salley Vickers is an erudite author who wears her erudtion very lightly. Yet you feel there is real authority here. She isn't like any other living writer I know. The novel had shades of Graham Greene's 'The End of the Affair', though it is much freer and the end is more human and more satisfying.
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102 of 105 people found the following review helpful By RDF on 20 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a very fine novel about human frailty. As I read it I felt understood, and it also made me question my own life and the decisions I have made. This author has a knack of opening doors in the mind which have been kept shut, or locked, a rare quality. I don't cry easily but I wept several times reading this. It was recommended to me by a high court judge, who is also not given to tears. It is however a discreet book, not at all sentimental and the writing is beautifully cool and precise.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Petrina Shaw on 29 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have read all Salley Vickers' novels, and liked them all, especially Miss Garnet. But this is easily the best. I began it at 9 o clock last night and read until I had finished it at 4 am. Seven hours, the length of the conversation David, the narrator, has with Elizabeth, his patient. It is a profoundly moving novel, full of insight and shrewd observation. And wonderfully written. An absolute winner. It will outsell even Miss Garnet.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By M. M. on 20 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to her this author last weekend which inspired me to read this book. Salley Vickers is new to me, but I shall now read all her books. She combines an effortlessly elegant style, which makes her very easy to read, with an unusual understanding of the human mind and heart. The book is written in the persona of a male narrator, a psychiatrist. I am also a doctor, and a man, and I was interested to note how quickly I fell under his spell. He describes a case of a suicide who comes into his care but the story is a story within a story, one that reveals his own infirmities. The book is very well structured without ever seeming to be so. It is also often funny, sagacious and convincing. The end is profundly moving. I loved it.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Jess Brown on 1 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have read all Salley Vickers's novels but this is easily the best. It has a command and authority which takes you at once into the story so that you want to read on. The cast of characters is broad, a black schizophrenic cleaner, a bewildered Pakistani Muslim, a man who believes he has a wolf trapped in his skull (my favourite) but the characters who really engross us are Dr David Macbride and his patient Elizabeth. The latter has attempted suicide, which is why she is under this psychiatrist's care but what is most compelling about her story is the way it shadows her doctor's, so that in the end the two stories become intertwined and the two characters are linked by their tragedies. I loved the desciptions of Rome and Caravaggio. There is a very subtle ending. A very rich book and it is also beatifully written.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Smith on 23 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
This entrancing novel held me captivate on a seven hour flight, the same lenght of time as the central dialogue of the narrative between the two protagonists, Dr David McBride and his patient ,Elizabeth. I was utterly gripped by Salley Vickers' capacity to enter the heart and mind of a suicidal patient (an area in which I have professional expertise) and the subtle and convincing way she has that tragedy reflected in the history of David.

She also writes very expressively about place. Rome and Caravaggio are evoked with an authenticity which is one of the joys of reading this very original novelist. And I shan't forget 'It is a hallmark of the damaged that when it comes to their own desire, instinctivey, ruinously, they tend to court its opposite'. This is so true - but I have never seen it expressed so delicately, yet with such penetrating understanding.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Kittering on 21 April 2006
Format: Hardcover
I bought this as a present for a Salley Vickers fan but began to read it and was hooked, so I've kept ot for myself because on almost every page there is some thought-provoking comment or aside which made me want to read the book again. I ended up with it full of bits of paper marking important passages.

It is a quiet book at first, but like the principal female character, Elizabeth Crookshank, the surface quietness hides a passionate core which, once you reach it, is powerfully affecting. I was disturbed by the story and its sense of sadness, but in a creative way. A wise and haunting book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By LindyB on 21 Jan. 2007
Format: Hardcover
My 5 star review implies the amazing impact that Salley Vickers' book has had on me. It is truly beautiful, speaking profoundly about what it means to love and what it means to live. The quotation from Gus ('the question is not to cure or to be cured but how to live') occurs fairly early on in the narrative but, like much else in this intricately constructed work, its meaning is enhanced as it echoes through the latter stages of the novel.
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