Aphrodite's Hat, By Salley Vickers

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The Independent Culture

Art galleries, smart hotels and London mansion blocks provide the well-upholstered settings for Salley Vickers's collection of short stories on love and its travails.

Concise and stylish, these arch tales of middle-class muddles are darker than they appear. Married men have affairs with hungry young women; divorcées get entangled with geriatrics.

The couple in the title story meet as students, then indulge in a more passionate cinq-à-sept later in life. In "The Fall of the Sparrow", Rebecca has an affair with her married poetry tutor, but makes him agree he won't leave home until his children are old enough, only to find that "children are never 'old enough' for parents to split up safely". The affair takes her to Rome, and an encounter with the ghost of John Keats.

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