by Salley Vickers
4th Estate, HK$104
Salley Vickers had a surprise hit with Miss Garnett's Angel. Intelligent, elegant and unassumingly gripping, it worked its quiet magic in much the same way that stories by Anita Brookner do - they creep up, tap you on the shoulder and don't run away. Dancing Backwards is, in the best sense of the phrase, more of the same. Our heroine is widowed poet Violet 'Vi' Hetherington, who takes a cruise to visit an old friend, Edwin, in America. Her first impression on boarding the Queen Caroline is that she's made a terrible mistake: 'What on earth have I done?' she whispers, as fellow passengers clog the decks, pose for photographs and say 'Sex' to get the right smile. Slowly, Vi meets people who are more her speed: Colin, a distinctly odd theatre critic; Baz, an anthropologist; and a glamorous historical novelist called Kimberley. Lulled by dancing lessons, sprightly conversation and this interregnum from life's pressures, Vi muses on Edwin, a poet she knew at Oxford. The pair make up two sides of an unstable love triangle: the whole being completed by Vi's husband-to-be, the volatile Bruno. As secrets emerge, past and present waltz through this novel of love and loss.