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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Aphrodite's Hat
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on 12 November 2010
Salley Vickers' well-known light touch and shrewd psychological analysis is brilliantly displayed in this collection of stories exploring the theme of love. The theme is captivatingly portrayed in the title story, whose subject, Aphrodite naked but for a wonderful hat in a painting by Cranach, suggestively adorns the cover. The stories are clever, poignant, wise and often disconcerting and strange. Few are about resolved love, many about the gaps, tragedies and pot holes of love. There are several slightly ghostly stories (I especially liked the one about the poet John Keats) and some very funny ones too (Mrs Radinsky about a medium and The Deal about a precocious six-year old getting the better of her parents). But my favourite was The Indian Child where a 'loquacious' Shakespeare meets and talks with his own creations. For those who loved Miss Garnet's Angel this is vintage Vickers beautifully presented and in cracking form.
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on 1 September 2017
Don't miss these fascinating stories.
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on 24 November 2010
Salley Vickers is one of my favourite novelists so I was delighted to find this, her first collection of short stories. She proves herself to be a master of the form, which seems particularly well suited to her deceptively subtle style. The lightness of touch disguises some sudden dives into depths of emotion, so that the reader is frequently caught off guard by the twist in the tale, as in the clever title story of the collection, or The Buried Life, which is a painfully accurate account of the pitfalls of making new relationships when there are children. But there are happy stories here too, such as the delightful Shakespearian fairy tail, The Indian Child, or the witty Green Bus to St Ives, about an unusual late love affair. Exquisite stuff!
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on 21 September 2011
I am not wild about collections of short stories generally - either the stories are overcompressed or too slight, or the sheer variety of the subject matter jars. This is a collection which I feel steers a good middle course. In confining the theme to love, the collection has sufficient cohesion. But each story has something a little different to say, and one reads it with a smile of enjoyment or acknowledgement.
Having said that though, I recently read Midsummer Night in the Workhouse - Diana Athill's collection of short stories about love, and in terms of skill, point and vision I felt these were quite a long way ahead. Part of the problem with the Vickers collection is that her calm semi detached - quasi psychoanalytical? - approach does place a barrier between the reader and the story. One observes wisely, from a distance; with Athill one lives the experience with her ...
So a pleasant enjoyable read, but not likely to be your book of the year.
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on 11 March 2015
I've just re-read 'Aphrodite's Hat' and I found this collection of stories just as good as I first thought it, some 4 years ago. I like short stories every now and then, they suit our 21-st century, Twitter-shortened attention spans and busy lives perfectly; you can put a book down for a bit and come back later to another story, and get another burst of intellectual stimulation. I also agree with everyone who thinks that the genre is difficult to master, and that Salley Vickers has done very well indeed: she's written here some true, if diminutive, masterpieces. Every story is different, even if love and its loss (or costs) tend to be the main subject. I very much like the way the author dissects and presents fleeting emotions or decades-long relationships with incredible delicacy and economy, yet pathos is ever present - the whole book shamelessly tugs at your heartstrings. Each story has a moral but it's so subtly told, nothing ever feels preachy. Each endings is deliciously unexpected. The one about the marmalade girl cat is just adorable. 'The Dragon's Bones' says so much in so few words, I found it astounding. Not quite genius, no; but a very good, middle-of-the-road read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 July 2012
A lovely collection of stories by the brilliant Salley Vickers, dealing with the theme of love: from a small girl's craving for a kitten (she gets it!) to a young man's attraction to his neighbour, a re-telling of the tale of the Indian Boy from A Midsummer Night's Dream, a woman's surprising pregnancy after years of barrenness, a woman's grieving for a dead child, a middle-aged man's discovery of love in a surprising place and several love affairs, each very different. Some of the stories are deeply melancholic, and at times, to be honest, I found them a bit too much so (such as 'Join Me for Christmas', where a woman learns the old adage that it's better to be alone than with the wrong person', 'The Buried Life', where a woman finds that leaving her husband for a more glamorous model has dire consequences for one of her children', 'The Return', in which a ghost returns to the hotel in Rome she stayed in and died in with her lover, or 'The Sphinx', in which a platonic passion between a middle-aged woman and a younger man ends when the man is reunited with a former lover). But the writing is always beautiful, and the emotions explored completely believable, and the characters sympathetic. At times, Vickers can be wonderfully moving. 'Aphrodite's Hat' (in which a pair of student lovers are reunited years later, when married to other people, and begin a secret affair) was very thoughtful, 'The Fall of a Sparrow', in which the ghost of John Keats (one of my favourite poets!) turns up in Rome to console a lovesick young woman poignant but also heartwarming, 'The Indian Child' was delicately witty (makes you want to read the play again, too, and other Shakespeare plays) and 'The Green Bus from St Ives', 'The Deal' (the kitten story) and 'The Hawthorn Madonna' wonderfully heartwarming, the sort of stories that make you feel it's good to be alive. Vickers is a true original, and a wonderful observer of human nature. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, but I think that's always the way with short story collections, and at their best, these were some of the most moving and believable stories I've read for a long time. Five stars overall. Incidentally, anyone who enjoyed these would also probably enjoy the story collections of Tessa Hadley, and Sue Gee's 'Last Fling'.
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on 18 November 2010
Having read a number of Salley Vickers books, I always look out for a new one. Usually I am not a short story reader but I was delighted by this book. All the stories have the usual ingredients of Culture, Spirituality and Insight which are a feature of Salley Vickers writing. For those who do not have much time to give to reading but who want to read something meaningful, this is an ideal book. I do hope Salley writes more short stories, I am sure that her professional experience has afforded her a wealth of ideas to draw upon.
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on 14 March 2013
I found each of the short stories beautifully constructed, and with very different subjects.This is an author who never disappoints
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on 30 May 2013
I am not a fan of short stories. But this book was selected by our book club. I sometimes feel that these are ideas which the author found unsatisfactory for a full length novel and bunched them all together into a book of short stories. They are easy to read well written but could not understand why there was suddenly a longer story just passed the middle of the book. Not a book I would recommend to anyone. Just another one for the charity shop
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VINE VOICEon 16 March 2011
I have never been a great fan of short stories or collections of them. I generally find that they are too dense and esoteric, trying to cram to much into a genre which does not afford the space or abrupt and under developed. A friend sent me this book (good job, from the title and cover I would probably not have lifted it from a book display) and I started without much joy. I soon, however, gained much joy on realising that this author has achieved what everyone says is so hard, namley to crack short story writing. With deceptive simplicity and true skill she crafts each story well. I highly recommend it!
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