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Instances of the Number 3 by Salley Vickers
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Instances of the Number 3 (2001)

by Salley Vickers

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359730,295 (3.21)10
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    Someone Else by Gillian Tindall (KayCliff)
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    Richard's Things by Frederic Raphael (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels deal with the relations between his wife and mistress after the sudden death of a young man.
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Intriguing novel about a widow, a mistress and the ghost of the man who brought them together, but all slightly too pretentious for my taste. The characters, particularly Bridget, are amusing if nothing else, and the supernatural subplot satisfied my reason for choosing this novel in the first place. I just couldn't stand all the blather about religion, and the endless quoting of Shakespeare. Sort of Evelyn Waugh meets Barbara Pym, which is not my idea of an enjoyable story. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Nov 15, 2012 |
A good novel about three-way relationships that "tend to collapse into two — or expand into four . . ." The writing is quite good, even if the sun does lay a "benediction" on some spring wheat (p. 102). There are a few offbeat uses of the inverse of negative-prefix adverbs, as in "She felt accountably shy" (p. 244). But the rapport between certain characters is unbelievably perfect, giving the feel of a romance novel for intellectuals — a sense of escapism. It would have been better without that. I still liked it very much.
  Muscogulus | Jul 29, 2012 |
Elegant. ( )
  annesadleir | Jul 8, 2012 |
Sally Vickers' novel Instances of the number 3 reads like a kaleidoscope of possible combinations of people in relationships. Shortly after her husband, Peter Hansome, has died, Bridget discovers that he had a mistress, Frances. Honoring Peter's choice, she decides to be friends with Frances. Soon after that, an Iranian boy, Zahin, described as very beautiful literary shows up on her doorstep, and she takes him in. The young man claims to be friends with Peter, who also provided him with accommodation. Throughout the book, there is the vague sense that Peter may or may not have had a relation of sorts with Zahin, who is probably bisexual, if not gay. In the broader context of the stories, the two women also explore other relationships, with men they meet. In addition to that, Peter haunts them, as his ghost observes the action of the story, initially only "visible" to the reader, but later also showing himself to the female characters in the book.

Originally, I did not like the idea of a "ghost" appearing, observing events and revealing itself to the characters. However, if viewed in the sense that deceased loved ones probably "haunt" people, they stay in their minds, or the thought of them keeps the "alive" in our mind, in our lives, there is something poetic to the idea. (although the suggestion in the novel is that the initiative of appearing seems to lie more on the part of the ghost.)

Very well written, and a joy to read. ( )
  edwinbcn | Oct 3, 2011 |
I read and enjoyed Vickers' Miss Garnet's Angel years ago as a book club selection and thought that I should try revisiting her novels. Opening after the accidental death of Peter Hansome, this is the story of the two women who loved him: his wife and his mistress. When Bridget, his wife, finds evidence of Peter's long suspected duplicity, she contacts Frances and the two begin a wary relationship, tied because of their feelings towards Peter. As the women develop a friendship of sorts, they are watched over by the speechless but generally benevolent ghost of Peter himself. An Iranian boy claiming to be Peter's protege appears and moves in with Bridget and then with Francis and then again with Bridget becoming the third in the newly reconfigured combination. And this doesn't begin to unravel even half of the plot. Although my accounting is terribly disjointed, the narrative hangs together beautifully as more truths are slowly unveiled about each character and each of their former places in Peter's compartmentalized world.

Vickers' characters, and indeed the book itself, are restrained, carefully guarded, and proper. Her impressively fluid writing lulls the reader so that the major plot twists come not as shocking surprises but organic growths out of the story itself. She plumbs the depths of relationships with these characters and plays with the characters in variations of threes of which Bridget, Francis, and Peter are only the most obvious set. The back cover copy of the book suggests that this is "a modern drawing room comedy" and while there were flashes that drew a chuckle, this is not comedy in the guffawing sense. It has a subtle, well-thought out, sly sort of humor interwoven into precisely drawn situations. None of the characters are particularly forthcoming to each other, nor even to the careful reader, who must mine the text for deeper revelations. I enjoyed the book but the slow pacing and restraint might put off some readers. ( )
1 vote whitreidtan | Jul 11, 2009 |
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After Peter Hansome died, people were surprised that his widow seemed to be spending so much time with his mistress.
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For weeks after Peter's death Bridget was unable to do anything about his things. Reluctant to move so much as a paper clip from his desk, she walked about the house playing old records, opening and putting down books, eating cold baked beans, keeping unusual hours.
What Bridget found she disliked most, in the weeks after Peter's death, was having to talk about him.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312421125, Paperback)

Following the death of Peter Hansome, his wife Bridget is contacted by Frances Slater, her late-husband’s mistress. Though the two are from opposite sides of London and meet under the least desirable circumstances, the women become close friends. In a subtly wrought turn of events, Bridget and Frances discover that they have in common what is important to them most: their parallel memories of Peter, killed in a car accident, and the shared reality of his spirit form, haunting them still. A gracefully tuned feat of the imagination, Salley Vickers’s novel is a rare celebration of life’s most intriguing geometries, the love triangle.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:26 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"When a man dies and leaves behind a wife and a mistress, we expect certain responses to follow. But as the narrator of Salley Vickers's second novel explains, "this is not an account of feminine jealousy, or even revenge, and not all human beings (not even women) conform to the attitudes generally expected." Indeed, in this novel, nothing is quite as we expect to find it. Telling the story of Bridget Hansome and Frances Slater, Vickers brings to life a loving marriage and a love affair that exist side by side for years - and that continue to reverberate after secretive, generous, sexually prodigal Peter Hansome dies suddenly in a car accident, on his way home from an assignation with yet another lover, about whom neither woman knows."."While Frances, a London art dealer and sometime artist's model, gradually makes friends with the older, Shakespeare-loving Bridget, these two unconventional women start to learn the whole truth (or almost the whole truth) about the man whose death brought them together and whose ghost watches over them still."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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