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Dancing Backwards

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  476 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Violet Hetherington, recently widowed, has taken the rash step of joining a transatlantic cruise to New York to visit Edwin, an old friend and long-ago lover. As she makes the six-day crossing, she relives the traumatic events that led to losing his friendship and abandoning her career as a poet for the safety of marriage. Moving between the late sixties and the present da ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Picador (first published 2009)
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May 07, 2011 Lacey rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads-wins
*I won this book from first reads.

I really wanted to like Dancing Backwards. Really. The story is intriguing, and I loved the flashback scenes, where the meat of the story takes place. It's very subtle and mellow and a nice change from thrillers (not that I have anything against those).

However, the characters were completely unbelievable. Violet, the main character, is on a trans-Atlantic cruise, and even before she's on the ship everyone - passengers and crew - are falling all over themselves t
Mar 30, 2010 Bettie☯ rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Radio 4 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
Eileen Atkins reads from Salley Vickers' acclaimed new novel, Dancing Backwards

Violet Hetherington's husband has recently died. Alone, she decides to take a cruise-ship crossing to visit her old friend, Edwin, in New York.

As she journeys across the Atlantic the quiet Violet begins to blossom - learning to ballroom dance, taking up smoking again, befriending a famously seething theatre critic. And in her time alone she reminisces about her early adulthood as a s
Aug 15, 2011 A.gasior rated it liked it
This book had a very slow lead up to the story. I was about half-way through before I developed a real interest in the story. I felt relieved when it finally caught up with the expectation I had for it, an expectation I formed after reading the book jacket. It was after the first several of Vi's flashbacks, when the picture of her sordid past really started to come alive that I started to enjoy this book. I think the most interesting parts of most people's lives happen at a young age, when their ...more
Feb 07, 2014 Ruth rated it liked it
This was a story about self-analysis - but a late and detached self-analysis. Vi seems to have spent her life taking what she thought was the easy route, only to find that the route she had chosen was not the right one for her. I suppose the cruise across the Atlantic was a metaphor for her life to that point, being taken along for the ride, coping with the rough and the smooth, without being in control. But it was during the cruise, with her flashbacks and the ability to be someone else with to ...more
Sep 25, 2012 Helen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Violet Hentherington (the name sounds straight out of Agatha Christie novels, doesn't it?) is going on a cruise to New York to visit an old friend. Most of the story takes place on the cruise ship, i.e. over 5 days.

This book was enjoyable enough to read but as I neared the end and realised nothing was going to happen, I felt that I'd wasted time on it.

Another side effect has been the demotion of my dream of cruising to New York. I think I'd rather a weekend in a tent in a wood.
Altogether nothing much happened ... not on the cruise, not when we were granted flash backs to her past with her husband and former lover. None of it was captivating by any means. The relevation in the last chapters did not change how I felt about that book. It was forgettable, it helped passing the time, but I am happy that it is over.

next book pls
Ruth Lawton
Dec 20, 2016 Ruth Lawton rated it it was amazing
I actually stayed up to the early hours reading this and, after finishing it, when I next woke I thought I was on a cruise liner at sea! I can see where my brother - who read it first - was disappointed because not a lot was happening, and yet I felt immersed in the Atlantic in many moods
Apr 16, 2016 Mirren rated it it was ok
Gave up half-way. No interest in characters or plot. Very slow and tedious to read at times. Too many incidental characters and annoying flashbacks.
Nov 10, 2012 Jae rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Disappointingly dull.
Mar 11, 2017 Robyn rated it liked it
Violet Hetherington, once divorced, once widowed, is heading to New York on a cruise ship to find an old friend who journeyed with her through the most troubled time of her life. This is the basic setting for Dancing Backwards, and while the ship plows through the vast expanse of blue, the story flashes back to this earlier period of Vi's life, as well as narrating the daily events that make up her cruise ship life. The book is an easy read, though the story does touch on dark themes at times, a ...more
Nov 17, 2010 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this light well written novel from the author of Miss Garnet's Angel (which I was totally underwhelmed by frankly) the characters are engaging and the pace of the novel is perfect. I have actually read four of Salley Vickers novels, the above as already stated I wasn't fussed by really, I loved Mr Golightly's Holiday and The Instances of Number Three, but hated (don't why) The Other side of You.
I have in fact had this on mnt tbr for a while as I wasn't sure if I would like it or not. I
Sep 12, 2011 Cheryl rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Graham S
Feb 07, 2013 Graham S rated it did not like it
A strange book. It appears to make use of the author's psychoanalyst's professional knowledge to get inside the heads of the principal characters, but fails completely. What drove Vi into the arms of Bruno who she disliked so much? What motivated Edwin? We found out nothing about her marriage to Ted except that she didn't love him. What is driving her to visit Edwin after a very long gap with apparently no contact?
I was also totally unconvinced by the exchanges on the ship - why did several str
Jan 01, 2016 Mya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. This book didn't start well for me. First, there were a lot of names and I couldn't keep track of them all. Second, the first few chapters seemed very random and mundane. However, as the story unfolded and the main character started reflecting more on her past and the events that had led to her being on the ship, it became more interesting and, in the end, what I thought would be quite an average (if not boring) book actually became one that was slightly above average. The title and c ...more
Cherry Radford
Sep 15, 2011 Cherry Radford rated it really liked it
This novel takes a while to pull out of port. It's beautifully written of course, but initially there doesn't seem to be much to love about Vi (a feeling not helped by her hideous name), and there are rather a lot of fellow passengers to get to know. Also, I was expecting her DANCING (given the title) to be more of a stimulus to her memories and understanding - but this didn't really come across to me.

But as the cruise and novel progressed,and I learnt more about her poetic youth and the choice
Ken Vaughan
Violet Hetherington, recently widowed, is sailing across the Atlantic from England to New York, where she will visit Edwin, an old friend from the 60s.. During the six day crossing, she meets a variety of people, and manages to shed some of her natural reserve. Most significantly, she meets Dino, a young man who teaches dancing. While making the crossing, Violet recalls her rich friendship with Edwin, and her rather tempestuous relationship with Bruno, and with Dino’s help, achieves some insight ...more
Aug 02, 2010 Mrsgaskell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, library, 9-star
Violet Hetherington is recently widowed and has booked a Trans-Atlantic passage to New York to visit an old friend whom she has lost touch with. Over the six days of the cruise she meets and engages with new people and also takes time to reflect on the past, her two marriages as well as her platonic friendship with Edwin, her literature tutor at Cambridge. This was a good read with a lot of depth to it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue to look forward to more books by Vickers.
Jul 25, 2011 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book. Having to read it for my reading group, I read the first chapter late one night and then put it aside thinking it might not be my type of thing (whatever that is). When I finally went back to it I found myself staying up late to carry on reading (although it's certainly no thriller) and whizzing through it. Slightly disappointed with the end but it was a good read.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is actually called Dancing Backwards and is about a woman making a transatlantic crossing on a ship (that is much like the QM2 in some ways but very unlike it in others)and how she uses the time on the voyage to come to terms with her relationship with an old friend she will be seeing when she arrives in New York.
Mar 20, 2010 Brigid rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If they allowed 1/2 stars, I'd classify this book at 2.5 - between liked it and it was okay. It was slightly disappointing for a writer of Salley Vickers' calibre. The book sometimes threatens to slip into shipboard romance territory, but never really does, which is a plus. It is subtle, but lacks some of the profound revelations that I have encountered in Vickers' other work.
Jul 10, 2014 Colleen rated it liked it
A pleasant enough comfort read, but not as engaging as other Salley Vickers' novels. As with her other books, it is written with a light touch and moves on at a good pace, but I found myself relieved to pull into the end and wave goodbye to Violet, her fellow passengers (apart from the intriguing older woman), and her past.
Aug 31, 2012 Rachael rated it liked it
She writes very well, so even though nothing much tends to happen in her books, they are always an enjoyable journey. What I find interesting is that the blurb given for the book isn't actually accurate (the person mentioned was never her lover, and part of the charm of the book is wondering which character from her past she is going to meet - so well done for spoiling it for the reader!).
Mar 04, 2011 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this pleasant novel, an Englishwoman's life shifts in interesting ways during a voyage from England to New York. Vickers interweaves today and multiple yesterdays, revealing the woman to be bright, intellectually capable, and interesting. I enjoyed the book, but Vickers' earlier novel, Miss Garnett's Angel, gets a higher rating in my estimate.
May 12, 2011 Carmen rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book, but I could not get into it at all. I suffered through the first 9 chapters over a few days and quit. It kept putting me to sleep. Normally I can read a book straight through. I had a hard time keeping track of what I was reading and the main character's thoughts jumped around too much.

I won this book for free through goodreads first reads giveaway.
Jennifer Louden
Aug 09, 2013 Jennifer Louden rated it really liked it
Ms. Vickers is one of my favorite authors, so masterful at showing rather than telling as well as exploring the oddities of being a human. Why do we do what we do? Her fiction teaches me to be a better person & writer.
Aug 12, 2011 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Beautifully written but that didn't really make up for the lack of plot. Salley Vickers seems to be going down the 'books for retired widows' route which is all when and good when they're this well crafted, but maybe twenty years too soon for me personally
Bruce Hamill
Feb 14, 2016 Bruce Hamill rated it really liked it
Not quite up to the standard of The Other Side of You but it drew me in slowly and surely and in the end I felt like I learnt something of the complexity of human relations which is surely what you want from a novel
Aug 01, 2011 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hadn't read anything by this author before but will be looking for more by her. Started and finished it last in one sitting. Very interesting and introspecive look back at relationships and their effect as recently widowed Violet Hetherington travels on a cruise ship to New York.
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Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool, the home of her mother, and grew up as the child of parents in the British Communist Party. She won a state scholarship to St Paul’s Girl’s School and went on to read English at Newnham College Cambridge.

She has worked, variously, as a cleaner, a dancer, an artist’s model, a teacher of children with special needs, a university teacher of literature, and a psy
More about Salley Vickers...

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