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Instances of the Number 3
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2004
I'm in sympathy with the customer who got clobbered taking his wife to Venice after reading Salley Vickers's brilliant, and seminal, 'Miss Garnet's Angel'. I, too, was caught by the 'haunted angel' quality of her observation and prose and my partner and I spent a blissful and informative few days in Venice following in the footsteps of Miss Garnet and her Archangel.
I picked this one up with some trepidation, but if anything I like it better than the first. Salley Vickers is very good on men, and male psychology. Unlike many female authors, she appears to like and understand men, while at the same time illustrating that she perceives their many foibles and weaknesses, though always with sympathy and wit. Peter, the dead husband, is especially well observed. And I like her matter-of-fact tone with the 'supernatural'. It makes you believe another level of reality is with us all the time(which I guess is her aim?)
By the way, does anyone know what she looks like? She seems to fight shy of photographs on her books, and her excellent website is also very sparing of any autobigraphical detail (she's clearly not a vain author) but an image of an ironically smiling keen-eyed apparition, rather like Athene, or one of those other clever Greek goddesses, is beginning to haunt my imagination.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2001
Salley Vickers has produced another superb book. The characterisations are subtle and indirect, with a natural complexity and untidiness. Although the book addresses Hamlet the tone is more that of a mild Elizabethan commedy. Like a good meander it contains many hidden corners and references for the perceptive reader. Not as genteel as it may seem from a casual perusal!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2003
I promised to take my wife to Venice ten years ago but Spain got in the way. Sally Vickers's Miss Garnet Angel however made me pay out many Euros on an immediate Venice visit that was as equisite as her book. This prompted me to try 'Instances of Number Three and I was not dissapointed in in the least. The author has a knack of audacious surprise that made one think.
A very clever and fascinating read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is the third book by Vickers that I have read; the others being WHERE THREE ROADS MEET and THE OTHER SIDE OF YOU. Having now finished INSTANCES OF THE NUMBER 3, I think I am now beginning to understand why I enjoy her writing but also why others may be put off by it. Knowing that Vickers used to be a psychoanalyst, it makes me wonder whether this is why there are often so many unanswered or oblique areas to her work. Personally, I like this about her - that you are able to go off and think about the story that you have read; how do you 'see' the characters and their motives? But I can understand that other readers may find this trait to be irritating.

INSTANCES OF THE NUMBER 3 begins with a death; that of Peter Hansome. Peter leaves behind him his wife and his mistress; two women that, confronted with this loss, create a strange relationship together. Although it may not be right to describe it as a friendship, they are acquaintances and they begin to rely more and more on each other. Yet Peter had another life which neither woman knows about. As both women go through the process of mourning for Peter, they both come to learn more about him but also about theirselves, and perhaps their separate reltionships with this one man who connects them.

That is all I shall tell about the plot as I do not wish to give too much away. As another reviewer has said, interwoven throughout this story are many references to the works of Shakespeare, especially "Hamlet". Common themes are then explored, one of which is the notion of truth. Are we all players on a stage, or is there more to us than that? What is the difference between lying and pretending, or acting? And, of course, the issue of love is explored, perhaps in a way not so often done in many novels.

Personally, I think INSTANCES OF THE NUMBER 3 shows that vickers is a very talented writer. Although the novel is not the roller-coaster ride that some readers prefer, there are so many levels to this book that you cannot help but be engaged by one of them at least. Vickers has a brilliant talent for highlighting human relationships with all their different dynamics and variances, and this novel brilliantly showcases this.
As a book which slowly takes hold of you and does not let go, this book is to highly recommended.
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on 5 July 2012
The highly acclaimed author of `Miss Garnet's angel' has written another astounding novel to add to an already prized collection, which is both stylish and compelling. If the eye-catching, striking front cover doesn't capture your imagination then the storyline certainly will, that shows the three graces from `La Primavera' by Sandro Botticelli a beautiful painting from Florence. This novel stood out distinctively by the effortless exactness and luminous, realistic perception by a writer who is highly talented. It combines a fictional personality underpinned by truth and authenticity, which entwined together, creates something so wholesome and believable before your very eyes. Glimpsing back to the past, the present that surrounds us and the future this is writing that is thought-provoking to the core; where one looks at life and those moments of significance. This is a classy, sophisticated book that is slick and stylish depicting London as a fine portrait in which one explores deep self-discovery. A philosophical approach combined with character observation forms ideas that are as vibrant as people, and which leaves you thinking for a long time afterwards. Salley Vickers has exceeded all expectations and triumphed spectacularly with this new work, her writing going from strength to strength with deeper meaning, ideas and notions that target ones heart and soul. Here is an author who is brave and courageous to ask those big questions in a way that is delicate and exquisitely done, without being overpowering or forced hence I fell under her spell and into her work. Death, forgiveness, optimism and understanding are all topics that are explored with the utmost sincerity and intelligence, which sustains your interest throughout the book that kept me from wanting to put it down. This is a novel that is not only highly readable and enjoyable but something much more than just a simple light read, as it goes much deeper in seeking out meaningful answers to questions that are fascinating & interesting. If you loved this as much as myself then I would also recommend Miss Garnet's angel and Mr. Golightly's holiday by the same author, which are just as readable as Shakespeare only with a lighter touch. A brilliant and engrossing read that has brightened up my year.
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A deft and very moving examination of how the unexpected death of a middle-aged man, Peter, affects both his wife, Bridget and his mistress, Frances. After Peter dies in a car accident, the two women, much to their own surprise, find themselves bonding and becoming close to each other as they learn more about Peter's life and what he meant to each of them. Frances, who's always enjoyed the life of a single woman of independent mind, makes a surprising discovery and realizes that from henceforth her independence will be more limited, but she will also gain hugely in a quite unexpected way. Bridget seeks consolation in nature, buying a country cottage in Shropshire and - to her astonishment - entering into a relationship with a poetry-loving local. But this is not all. Who is the mysterious Zahin, and why is he so keen to get to know Frances and Bridget? And why is Bridget increasingly convinced that she can feel Peter's presence in her house?

It's rare to have a ghost story that is serene - but this is what Vickers manages, magnificently. She writes superbly well from all the characters' perspectives, including the dead Peter, and must be one of the best writers around at writing about life after death convincingly. The scenes where Peter, in spirit form, is meditating on his past and on the two women he loved are magnificent: and Vickers manages to make Peter a likeable man rather than a two-timing selfish one, showing why he's ended up with two partners. I liked both Bridget and Frances very much, particularly Bridget, the Irish woman who escaped from her dirt-poor background to make a new and exciting life in London. And the way that Vickers wove the story of Hamlet, particularly focusing on Queen Gertrude, into the text was beautifully done. There was also some elegant comedy, not only in the ultra-courteousness of Zahin (a boy with secrets) but in the presence of the extrovert artist Patrick Painter, a quite magnificently rude man. The novel was beautifully shaped, and brought to a delicately moving ending, with a distinct sense of hope about it. Definitely one of Vickers's best. This writer has real insights into human nature.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2006
I like all Salley Vickers' books and this is no exception. Except that I feel it has been a little underrated among her several marvellous novels. It's very sharp and perceptive but also has a great deal to say, in this author's typically understated and unportentous way, about memory. And how we relate to the dead.
I don't know another modern writer who writes as well about the dead, and our reationship with them, as Salley Vickers. And she's very original on Shakespeare too. As a Shakespeare teacher, I would set this alongside Stoppard in any consideration of "Hamlet".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2007
I like a book with pace and I'm afraid this book didn't do it for me. I didn't believe in the characters, I couldn't work out where the story was going and even at the end it meandered across the finish line. I was disappointed. Sally's other novels Miss Garnet's Angel and Mr. Golightly's holiday were unputdownable. I would definitely chose those over this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2010
Another very poignant story of women on a journey to find themselves. I enjoyed reading it as it is beautifully written but,this time I had difficulty believing in the characters, particularly the mistress. The wife was a much more 3 dimensional creation.Not a patch on Miss garnett's Angel, but that was always going to bne a hard act to follow
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I bought "Instances of the Number 3" because I had read "Miss Garnet's Angel" and loved it. This novel has not disappointed, intriguing from the first page, it draws you in to the lives and thoughts of the characters. I am currently half way through and finding it almost un-put-downable!
The idea that a dead mans' wife and mistress could become close after his death and that the dead man would begin appearing to them both, works beautifully - and as new characters are introduced the story really draws you in.
Salley Vickers writes so well too, no lazy writing here, sentences so well constructed and her ideas about religion, our ultimate destinies and so much more are introduced with consummate art - that even though you want to race ahead with reading the story, you want to go back and re-read paragraphs, mulling them over.
Highly recommended!
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