eternal triangle of love, longing, and loss.
The "eternal triangle"
of cliché implies a multitude of griefs as well
as tabloid love-exposes. Behind the everyday infidelities
of your average two timing rat is a wealth of symbolism
as ancient and complex as human desire itself. The triple
deities of Egyptian mythology, the three Graces as personification
of grace and beauty, the doctrine of the Trinity…
all these are instances of the number three, fittingly
accompanied by the lightly mocking music of that triangle
which is at once a simple instrument for children yet
the symbol for the halo of God the Father. The three-legged
stool may seem to sit stoutly on the floor, but I wouldn't
trust its stability if I were you.
Many writers have approached
the theme of infidelity through an examination of the
relationship between a wife and a mistress after the
man's death, and Salley Vickers approaches the theme
with unusual subtlety. Peter Hansome is a man loved
by two women: his wife Bridget and his mistress Frances.
When he dies in a car crash they become uneasy friends,
though each claims superior knowledge of the man himself.
He haunts the novel on two levels, both in their memories,
and as a soul in Purgatory whom only the wife can see
(and in the end) talk to.
Of course, neither the wife
nor the mistress knew the secret darker side to Peter's
character, and when an odd, beautiful Iranian boy called
Zahin appears on the scene this third relic of Peter's
life holds the clue to a yet more complex mystery. Salley
Vickers again allows the wife, not the mistress, discover,
to discover the truth. Frances may end up unexpectedly
blessed with the conventional pleasures of domesticity,
but is he one fettered to Peter by the bonds of holy
matrimony who is granted access to knowledge.
Bridget Hansome is a well-rounded
creation who makes Frances
Slater seem somewhat two-dimensional in contrast. Her
evolving relationship with Stanley Godwit is described
with reticence and grace. This late flowering love is
an affair as much of literature as of the heart, yet
one feels it to be all the more powerful because of
Those who admired Salley Vickers's
accomplished first novel, Miss Garnet's Angel will expect
Instances of the number 3 the same gentleness of perception
and sharpness of intellect, and they will not be disappointed.
This is not a novel grand passion; the tone is one controlled
politeness with which Vickers describes the emotions
of her characters. If at times this strains credulity
it is a small price to pay for the realisation that
all things can be understood, and all forgiven- the
redemptive "Ripeness is all" which sustains
you long after the last page.
Bel Mooney, The Times, 01/08/01