Dancing Backwards, By Salley Vickers

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The Independent Culture

A literary ghost haunts Salley Vickers' compelling new novel: that of the poet ee cummings, who provides this little gem of an epigraph: "For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)/ it's always ourselves we find in the sea". Loss fills the narrative, but Vickers maintains tension and suspense through the possibility that what is lost might one day be regained – in this case, a sense of self.

Violet is journeying across the Atlantic to meet her estranged friend Edwin, and her adventures aboard the cruise ship form the book. The journey is a well-worn metaphor in fiction and in lesser hands it can go awry. But here, Vickers is adept at interweaving emotional and psychological with geographical journeys.

Plucked from her familiar surroundings, Violet must adapt quickly – she is a creature of solitude thrust into a crowd. If Vickers' dialogue wavers at times, she is in her element when it comes to broader themes. As the narrative sails along, we see how it is only by being thrown out of context that we discover where it is that we truly belong.

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