Home— London, England E-mail— [email protected]
Psychoanalyst and writer. Has taught literature in university and in adult education programs.
Miss Garnet's Angel, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2000.
Instances of the Number 3, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2002.
Mr. Golightly's Holiday, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.
The Other Side of You, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.
Where Three Roads Meet, Cannongate (London, England), 2007.
The relationships among psychology, religion, and art serve as recurring themes in Salley Vickers's well-received novels. A trained psychoanalyst as well as a former university literature teacher, Vickers achieved a surprise success with her debut book,Miss Garnet's Angel, which became a word-of-mouth best seller in Britain. The novel, described by a Publishers Weekly contributor as an "unpretentious gem of a book," tells the story of Julia Garnet, a middle-aged Englishwoman who retires from her teaching job after the death of her friend Harriet and travels to Venice. There, she discovers a series of paintings in a local church that depict the story of Tobias and the Angel Raphael. In this tale from the Apocrypha, Tobit of Nenevah, a poor man of good faith who is blind, sends his son Tobias to a faraway city to retrieve money that Tobit had deposited there. The father hires a young man to accompany his son, not realizing that this companion is really the Angel Raphael, who watches over the boy. Julia Garnet also encounters an angel through whom she begins to discover the joys in life that had previously eluded her.
Though World and I reviewer Linda Simon felt that Miss Garnet's "dawning of wisdom … does not quite ring true," many critics found the novel skillfully and sensitively written. A writer for the Atlantic Monthly praised it as a "superbly crafted" antiromance;New York Times Book Review contributor Dana Kennedy observed that it is "both admirable and refreshing to read a coming-of-age novel about someone over 40." According to the Publishers Weekly reviewer,Miss Garnet's Angel 's "subtle depiction of a life touched by a heavenly spirit carries not a hint of cliché."
Vickers followed Miss Garnet's Angel with Instances of the Number 3, which explores the bond that develops between a deceased man's wife and his mistress. Their friendship is further complicated by the arrival on the scene of Zahin, an unusually attractive Iranian boy, and his secretive sister (evidently Zahin in disguise). As the characters move toward new relationships with each other and with supporting characters, the husband's ghost remains close by, witnessing the events. Michael Dirda, writing in Crisis, found the book a "deeply religious novel" that examines how its characters "strive to live in this fallen world, with our fallen natures, facing up to the various psychological and spiritual burdens that life has placed on them." Though the novel poses serious questions, Dirda wrote, it offers no clear answers. Finding the book "utterly assured" and original, Dirda concluded that Instances of the Number 3 "could become a minor classic."
Times Literary Supplement reviewer Emma Tristram commented on the novel's ambiguities, noting that readers must "interpret, piece together and try to work out whether something is ironic or truthful." Indeed, Tristram noted that a central theme in the novel "is the way great art and religious doctrines are inevitably transformed, often into banalities by the ordinary, fallible people who think about them." New Statesman contributor Amanda Craig, however, felt that Instances of the Number 3 is less a novel of ideas than a "dear old Hampstead adultery novel, only without the bloke and with an extra mystery mistress thrown in." Observ-ing that Vickers deals with a promising subject in this book, Craig concluded that pompous writing and dull characters undermine the novel's potential. Elsa Gaztambide, on the other hand, praised the novel in a Booklist review as an "unorthodox story about the many faces of love and forgiveness," while a writer for Kirkus Reviews described the book as a "wise and wryly tender tale" of intelligence and substance.
Vickers's third novel,Mr. Golightly's Holiday, features an unusual protagonist: God. Working slowly toward the revelation of her eponymous character's identity, Vickers depicts him as an old man who has come to an English seaside resort to work on an update of a best-selling book he had authored long before. His presence changes the lives of the local residents, just as theirs affects him. Noting the book's humor,Adelaide Review contributor Gillian Dooley added that "the point of the story is serious. However hard a creator tries, once his creatures have independent life, they are out of his control." Praising the novel's elegant prose and deep insights, Dooley recommended the book as a "wise and disarming" work. Though a critic for Publishers Weekly felt that the novel does not "live up to its highly original conceit," the critic praised Vickers's witty observations of the natural world and human behavior.
In The Other Side of You, Vickers tells the story an analyst and his patient who help each other come back to emotional life after devastating loss. Elizabeth Cruikshank, who attempts suicide after her lover's death, seeks treatment from David McBride, who remains deeply scarred by guilt over the death of his brother in early childhood. During Elizabeth's therapy, they discuss art—particularly the paintings of Caravaggio—and love, finding a kind of redemption in creativity. Reviewing the novel in Booklist, Carol Haggas praised the "erudite precision" of Vickers's "lyrically poetic testament" to love, and the power of its "ennobling grace."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, January, 2001, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 88; March, 2007, review of The Other Side of You, p. 113.
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Elsa Gaztambide, review of Instances of the Number 3, p. 1094; December 1, 2003, Nancy Pearl, review of Mr. Golightly's Holiday, p. 648; January 1, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of The Other Side of You, p. 59.
Christian Science Monitor, January 11, 2001, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 20.
Economist, August 16, 2003, "Busy Time Out; New British Fiction," p. 75.
Guardian, December 8, 2007, Ursula K. Le Guin, "Sigmund and the Blind Seer," review of Where Three Roads Meet.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002, review of Instances of the Number 3, p. 138; November 15, 2003, review of Mr. Golightly's Holiday, p. 1340; December 1, 2006, review of The Other Side of You, p. 1198; March 1, 2007, review of The Other Side of You, p. 8.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Barbara Love, review of Instances of the Number 3, p. 141; November 15, 2003, Prudence Peiffer, review of Mr. Golightly's Holiday, p. 100; January 1, 2007, Leigh Anne Vrabel, review of The Other Side of You, p. 99.
Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2001, Michael Harris, "Journey of Self-Discovery with an Unexpected ‘Angel’ in the Wings," p. 3.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 2004, Charles De Lint, review of Mr. Golightly's Holiday, p. 32.
New Statesman, December 25, 2000, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 87; August 6, 2001, Amanda Craig, "Everything but the Bloke," p. 39; August 18, 2003, Zoe Williams, "Novel of the Week," p. 39.
New York Times Book Review, June 17, 2001, Dana Kennedy, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 22.
O, the Oprah Magazine, March, 2007, Cathleen Medwick, "Biblio: The Art of Happiness, Doctors' Dilemmas, Spirit Hunger, Survival Songs," p. 200.
Observer, October 28, 2007, Kristy Gunn, "Here's to Second Chances," review of Where Three Roads Meet.
People, April 15, 2002, "Pages," p. 43.
Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2001, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 69; March 18, 2002, review of Instances of the Number 3, p. 76; November 17, 2003, review of Mr Golightly's Holiday, p. 43; November 27, 2006, review of The Other Side of You, p. 28.
Spectator, April 8, 2000, Jane Ridley, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 42; November 18, 2000, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 53; November 25, 2000, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 49; August 4, 2001, review of Instances of the Number 3, p. 30; April 1, 2006, John de Falbe, "Memories of Loss," p. 57.
Times Literary Supplement, August 3, 2001, Emma Tristram, review of Instances of the Number 3, p. 19; August 15, 2003, Lucy Lethbridge, "A Little Local Divinity," p. 21; April 14, 2006, Kate Slater, "Caravaggio's Message"; November 16, 2007, Sarah Curtis, "He, Tiresias."
Tribune Books(Chicago, IL), June 15, 2003, review of Instances of the Number 3, p. 6.
Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2001, Merle Rubin, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 9.
Washington Post Book World, February 1, 2004, Alice K. Turner, review of Mr. Golightly's Holiday, p. 7; February 25, 2007, Michael Dirda, "In a Heady New Novel, a Sensitive Psychiatrist Observes the Art of the Mind," p. 10.
World and I, May, 2001, Linda Simon, review of Miss Garnet's Angel, p. 213.
Adelaide Review, http://www.adelaidereview.com/au/(December 1, 2007), Gillian Dooley, review of Mr. Golightly's Holiday.
Australia Broadcasting Corporation Wide Bay Web Site,http://www.abc.net/au/widebay/ (December 1, 2007), Sue Gammon, review of Mr. Golightly's Holiday.
Bookplace.com, http://www.thebookplace.com/bookends/(December 1, 2007), "Salley Vickers."
Compulsive Reader,http://www.compulsivereader.com/ (December 1, 2007), Tom Cunliffe, review of Miss Garnet's Angel.
Crisis, http://www.crisismagazine.com/(December 1, 2007), Michael Dirda, review of Instances of the Number 3.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (December 1, 2007), Laura Merrill Miller, review of Miss Garnet's Angel.
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (December 1, 2007), Salley Vickers profile.
Guardian,http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (December 1, 2007), Elena Seymenliyska, review of The Other Side of You.
Melbourne Age, http://www.theage.com/au/(December 1, 2007), Brenda Niall, "Scripture as Soap Has Too Many Suds."
Michael Ramsey Prize Web Site, http://www.michaelramseyprize.org/uk/(December 1, 2007), "Judge: Salley Vickers."
Penguin Group Web Site,http://us.penguingroup.com/ (December 1, 2007).
Salley Vickers Home Page,http://www.salleyvickers.com (December 1, 2007).
Telegraph,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (December 1, 2007), Elena Seymenliyska, "Hit and Myth."