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My Thoughts About … ‘The Other Side Of You’ by Salley Vickers

 

Synopsis Taken From The Paperback Edition

This Title Is Available From Amazon

‘One day, a failed suicide, Elizabeth Cruikshank, is admitted to the care of psychiatrist Dr David McBride.

She is mysteriously reticent and it is not until he recalls a painting by Caravaggio that she is moved to recount her story.

As her account unfolds, David finds himself unusually touched by his patient’s story of her tragic dereliction of love and trust, and by a haunting sense that his elusive patient’s life has a special resonance for the hidden ‘other side’ of his own.’

About The Author

Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool, raised in Stoke-on-Trent and London, and read English at Newnham College, Cambridge, despite her father’s strong reservations, as this went very much against the staunchly Communist environment she had been brought up in.

Despite having held many and varied jobs, it may have been her social worker mothers influence, that led her to later pursue careers as a teacher of children with special needs, then eventually a psychoanalyst.

Following the unprecedented success of her books, Salley now chooses to write full time, suplementing this with her return to an earlier career as a lecturer, this time in a wide variety of subjects which encompass her love of art, religion, literature and psychology.

Her love of the arts is also reflected in the private time she indulges in opera, dancing and poetry – together with her other passion, bird-watching


My Thoughts About The Book

Without giving away too many spoilers, as this book has quite a narrow narrative and storyline, so it would be easy to do so, I would just say that if you like a book where the characters truly engage with one another, then this is a must read for you.

The patient and her psychologist, through their sharing of experiences, create a powerful and frighteningly honest reality about life, that left me questioning my own thoughts and actions. Much as it did David McBride, the pschologist in question, who is left to re-evaluate both his personal and professional life, and his ability to make an honest and meaningful difference to the lives of those around him.

The characters are complex, formed with great tenderness and respect, and given a life that is both moving and powerful. The storyline of the psychiatrist trying to help his suicidal patient shifts, page by page, into a shared pain, as their stories unfold together, with each trying to reach some kind of self-understanding, as they confront their failures and regrets with an honesty that can be both moving and painful.

Sometimes I just wanted to shake the pair of them, at other times I wanted to cry for them, or with them, I’m not sure which. The debate about the nature of relationships; love and pain; life and death; self knowledge and lack of self worth, are all skilfully woven into the story, yet presented so directly as to be almost too intimate and too close to home, all making for a totally compelling journey.

It was almost a relief when the couple are finally all talked out and have each, in their own way, come to an understanding and acceptance of their individual circumstances and both make the conscious decision to make the most of every opportunity and move on with their lives, each in a totally new direction.

The story didn’t quite end as I had expected however, although it was quite haunting and beautiful, given the ties throughout the story to the art of Caravaggio, particularly his work titled ‘Supper At Emmaus’, which both inspired them to open up to each other, yet eventually appeared destined to keep them apart.

Not being an art crtitic, I nevertheless spent some considerable time in researching the art and life of Caravaggio and confess to becoming mesmerised by many of his religious paintings, although the man himself appeared to be quite a troubled and not particularly likeable character. To my untrained eye, his paintings seem passionate, yet almost cruel, but with an expressive beauty that captured my imagination.

This book was an impulse buy from a charity shop and has been languishing in my ‘To Be Read’ pile for some considerable time. I wasn’t even sure whether to bother reading it or not, having heard mixed reviews and thoughts about it, but being the kind of person that just can’t part with a book until I have read it, just in case I miss something fantastic, I decided to give it a try.

I am certainly glad that I did save this one from being left unread any longer …

A definite 4 out of 5


Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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8 comments
    • Hi Yvonne,

      Thanks for stopping by and for the lovely comments, I appreciate them.

      This was quite an intense read and at times quite frustrating, but I can imagine that psychologists and psychiatrists come across complex cases like this in real life, all the time.

      I am not sure that I would ever have the patience and firmness needed to do the job.

      I’m sure that, unlike David McBride in the book, real life psychologists don’t end up by becoming a pseudo patient, do they?

      Gosh! I do hope not, what a thought!!

  • What a wonderful review!

    It seems I need to get caught up with Salley Vickers’ books. I’ve read her first three and liked them very much but it seems she has three more that I’ve not seen anywhere. I’ll check the library as this one sounds like an intense, excellent story.

    • Hi Cath,

      This was the first Salley Vickers book for me, but I shall definitely be on the lookout for more.

      I really want to read ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’ as just about everyone seems to rave about this one.
      Is this one of the three you have read?

      I know it is late in the day and I have only just found out about it, but Salley Vickers is appearing at The Castle Hotel in Taunton tomorrow at 6.45pm, to talk about her latest collection of off-beat love stories, ‘Aphrodites’ Hat’.

      It appears that Taunton is hosting its first Literary Festival, courtesy of Brendon Books.
      I am just about to put up all the details in a post, but there are over 40 separate events being hosted at various locations in the town, right through until September 25th.

      • Yes, Miss Garnet’s Angel is one of the books by SV that I’ve read, the others were Mr. Golightly and Instances of the Number Three. They were all very good. I’m pleased too that she’s having a book of short stories published, that sounds really interesting.

        Not sure that I’ll be able to go to any of the literary events as real life is a bit fraught at the moment, but I will investigate and see if it might be possible. Taunton’s not far after all.

        • Hi Cath,

          I hope that things get better on the home front for the family very soon.

          The tone of your post echoes that of Margaret’s @ Books Please, almost identically, so I really will have to check out the other three titles that seem so popular with everyone.

          Even her book of short love stories, ‘Aphrodites Hat’ sounds quite good and a little different …

          The stories in this long-awaited collection by Salley Vickers all deal with psychological aspects of love: love given and withheld, love craved and lost, love met and disappointed; the differing shades of loves between friends, between parents and children, between children and other adults; love even, in one case, for a pet.

          Psychologically acute, sharply written in lucid and often witty prose, these stories, set in Venice, Greece and Rome as well as London and the English countryside, take us into the complex geography of the human heart. Sometimes joyous and humorous, sometimes melancholy and poignant, this collection confirms Salley Vickers’ reputation as one of our most subtle and engaging writers.

          … and the cover art for the book is fantastic!!!

  • I’ve read four books by Salley Vickers. I think my least favourite is The Other Side of You, which I found had a slow start and I agree with all the points you’ve made. All of which means that I did like this book very much and the others are even better. I can’t choose between them – the first one I read was Miss Garnet’s Angel – set in Venice, lovely! Then I read Mr Golightly ‘s Holiday – great, followed by Instances of the Number Three, which has excellent character analysis and relationships. Shame I can’t go to see Salley in Taunton!

    • Hi Margaret,

      Cath @ read-warbler and yourself have voiced almost identical thoughts about the other three books of Salleys’, that you both seem to have read and enjoyed, so I really shall have to try and get them into my reading schedule very soon.

      Salley’s latest offering, ‘Aphrodites’ Hat’ is a collection of short love stories with a difference and many of them are set on foreign soil, so I shall also try and read this one. Short stories are not something that I tend to read on a regular basis, but Cath has whetted my appetite, with a book of short ghost stories, so that may alter my perspective about them.

Written by Yvonne

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