Instances of the Number 3 Hardcover – 6 Aug 2001
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Salley Vickers' novel Instances of the Number Three is set in London and Shropshire. It describes the relationship between a dead man, his wife and his mistresses and is illuminated by philosophical ponderings on Hamlet and his ghost, and the poetry of Dante, Gerald Manley Hopkins and John Donne. Peter Hansome is the dead husband who walks through the pages of the novel, appearing to his wife Bridget in "his old tweed jacket and cords. He was, in fact, exactly, but without the disfiguring cuts and bruises of the accident, as she had seen him last--in his coffin. "To come to terms with his life and death, literature-loving Bridget makes friends with his mistress, Francis, an ex-artists' model: "She ... had a capacity for stillness and the kind of body which reflects planes of light." But as the omniscient narrator says:
This is not an account of feminine jealousy, or even revenge, instead its a story of negotiation and discovery as the characters orbit each other like little planets.Vickers' prose style is witty, literary and decorous, her musing on the instances of the number three take in purgatory, heaven and hell; the eternal lovers triangle and the trinity (memorably described as the "different flavours of a Neapolitan ice"). The book is a controlled meditation on personal identity, passion and art, where emotions are analysed and reconciled. Sally Vickers' trick is to keep you interested in the hearts and lives of the characters as her novel of ideas gently unfurls.
This is a fine successor to Vickers' hugely successful debut novel, Miss Garnett's Angel, a subtle story of an older woman's emotional epiphany set in contemporary Venice. --Eithne Farry
‘Salley Vickers is a remarkable optimist. She shows that happiness can be found even after it seems to have died.’ David Sexton, Evening Standard
‘Gentleness of perception and sharpness of intellect … sustains you long after the last page.’ Bel Mooney, The Times
‘Admirable. Salley Vickers has a way with persuasive characters and crisp narrative.’ Penelope Lively, Independent
‘Vickers writes sympathetically about the bereaved women as they remake their lives.’ Margaret Walter, Sunday Times
‘Studded with observations and asides that stop you in your tracks.’ Julie Wheelwright, Scotland on Sunday
‘The reader glides through it effortlessly. The plot is simple, yet has an amazing amount of narrative power. Vickers’ second novel confirms that she will have a long and outstanding career.’ Martyn Goff, The Times
‘Lovely. Distinctive grace.’ Murrough O’Brien, Daily TelegraphSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
A very clever and fascinating read.
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