Top positive review
Dancing to success
20 October 2018
This is one of my favourite Salley Vickers stories. A vignette, light in essence, but with intense notes, and a deeper, darker resonance. Sometimes quizzical, sometimes satirical (especially about cruise travel!), this subjective tale of a woman - older and wiser, following her heart after years of broken relationships, is told with Vickers's double ability to tell a story in a light-hearted style, belying the hidden darkness of people's real lives, which gradually emerge with dexterous handling of subject, detail, characterisation, perception, and understanding of human nature. I like the suggested redemption at the end of her novels, from 'Miss Garnet's Angel' and 'The Librarian' to this book, making her stories "whole" with beginnings, middles, and endings, nothing left to chance. I love her style that combines the lightest of touch with acute sensibility, drawing you in gradually until you realise her characters are not what they seem, the story is not so simple, the pleasures are mitigated with pain.
There are two stories in this book. The journey of Violet, from the past to the present, exposing gradually the complications of her life, its joys and sorrows is the central theme, but the secondary theme, the cruise-ship setting, neatly contrasts the increasing darkness of Violet's story with the daft superficiality of cruise-ship travel which lays a comedy over a serious story. The neat juxtaposition exemplifies the superficiality of daily life overlaying the deeper elements of what lies behind closed doors, the mental anguish that is hidden behind smiles and laughter. The stage-setting of the cruise-ship is an ideal vehicle in which to gradually expose the weaknesses and incongruities of human nature and Salley Vickers exploits this to the full in this novel which appears light and airy, but in fact is anything but.
Salley Vickers's books should be made into films: she is a clever writer and each novel is different, each a little piece of brilliance. I would like to see that brilliance reach a wider audience.