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The Boy Who Could See Death by Salley Vickers

The Boy Who Could See Death

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Charming, sometimes funny, sometimes strange, always well written, these are little jewels from the pen that gave us Miss Garnet’s Angel and Mr Golightly’s Holiday. She is a witty and elegant writer with a beautiful turn of phrase. A few well-placed words bring characters and settings effortlessly to life. Dip in and read one or take them all in order, either way you are in for a treat. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

If you like Salley Vickers you might also like to read books by Patricia Schonstein, Tracy Chevalier and Lily Prior.

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Eli is just seven years old when he looks in his friend’s eyes and predicts his death. Sarah Palliser, a woman scorned, is helped to forget past miseries by a ghost. Frances Travers, a widow, invents a trip to Venice with an art historian lover in order to avoid Christmas with her bossy children. These are just some of the compassionate and engaging, yet fallible characters in Vickers’ unusual stories. The eleven stories are about life, love – and its disappointments – and death. Vickers explores the fundamentals of human existence, including, secrets, loss and infidelity. With a psychological and fantastical precision that echoes Angela Carter’s short stories, she creates a world where nothing can be taken for granted. Each story is evocative and beautifully written with the characters – good and bad – resonating throughout; each a miniature glimpse of what it is to be human.
~ Andrea Rayner

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.  You can read their full reviews by clicking here.

  • Jillian McFrederick - 'A very readable collection of short stories, these are typical of Salley Vickers’ concise and deliberate style. Well worth the read, this comes highly recommended.'
  • Sarah Jones - 'An intriguing collection of short stories that lends itself to being read again straight after the first reading, in order to make sure none of the details that give these stories their air of strangeness have been missed.'
  • Barbara Gaskell  - 'A book of short stories with entrancing words and adept observations. Kept me going whilst on my daily train commute.  4 out 5 stars. If someone suggests that short stories are inferior to novels then I would direct them to read this book.'
  • Sarah Harper - 'A thoroughly enjoyable collection of quirky tales. Salley Vickers imparts a great depth to her characters and has the ability to make each tale unique with a range of writing styles and a variety of themes.'
  • Ed Robson - '‘The Boy Who Could See Death’ is a largely successful collection of short stories that make subtle yet telling observations of human weakness and self-deception.'
  • Sarah Musk - 'A funny, sad, haunting, poignant collection of short stories.  I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about the dark, quirky side of human nature.'
  • Cat Hogwood - 'a well written collection of short stories, each one incredibly individual. They each touch on various things in life, such as family interactions, bereavement, betrayal and secrets.'
  • Sarah Davis - 'Extraordinary stories for the curious...All the characters are finely crafted and believable.  Salley Vickers writes beautifully - her prose is almost lyrical in quality.'
  • Maggie Crane - 'a collection of stories, some of them quite depressing it has to be said, although they do contain gravity and interest to hold the reader.'
  • Edel Waugh - 'I had some favourites from this collection and I particularly liked the little twists and turns that were often placed in each story that you did not see coming.'
  • Suzanne James - 'All the stories were written beautifully - a flowing, poetic style that drew you on through tales of loss and betrayal without becoming too dark or maudlin.'
  • Katie Hoare - 'I felt that I was either in the room or following each of the characters around, and the variety of themes which are written about are treated with such tenderness and subtly.'
  • Sue Broom - 'I have enjoyed several of Salley Vickers’ novels so was very excited to find this collection of short stories offered for review.  I couldn’t have been more delighted with it.'
  • Sophia Ufton - 'This was a wonderful selection of short stories. I loved it!!'
  • Val Rowe - 'A simply delicious Pandora's Box of short stories which is a sheer delight to read.'
  • Pam Kennedy - 'This book of short stories was a departure from my usual sort of books...I can say though that a lot of my friends will love it and that it will be a success but not for me.'
  • Farah Alam - 'This book was ok for me. It wasn't as interesting for the most part and, I found myself just reading on just to get to the end.'
  • Sally Doel - 'I really liked this collection and it has encouraged me to read both more by Salley Vickers and more short stories!'
  • Karen Clark - 'An enjoyable collection of short stories: I particularly enjoyed 'A Christmas Gift'.'
  • Glynis Elliott - 'a most unusual collection of short stories with at times a supernatural twist...each had me captivated to the extent that I finished the whole book the same day. I will definitely read more from this author.'


The Boy Who Could See Death by Salley Vickers

From Salley Vickers, bestselling author of Miss Garnet's Angel, comes The Boy Who Could See Death, an enchanting and unsettling collection of short stories. Eli is an ordinary boy with an extraordinary gift. It will shape the course of his whole life but, he learns the hard way, he must keep it hidden from those who know him best. Seeing death is a mixed blessing. Eli is not the only one defying the world's expectations of him. Cousin Francesca, a charming spinster and a favourite with the children, is harbouring kleptomaniac tendencies. Sarah Palliser, living alone next to a ramshackle graveyard, is more scared of the small box under her stairs than the ghosts outside her window. Meanwhile dreamy artist Nan is nursing a growing obsession with wolves in Britain and the recently widowed Frances finds herself inventing an exotic imaginary boyfriend to pass the time. Push through an unassuming front door on an unremarkable street or peer into the glowing fluorescent windows of an urban office block and within you'll find strange and unforgettable scenes, normal people caught in situations they do not quite comprehend...Salley Vickers is a master of the uncanny and the unexpected. In this collection of eleven remarkable stories, she explores bereavement and betrayal, closely guarded secrets and common gossip, long-overdue endings and decidedly strange beginnings. Each story is perfectly formed: a snapshot of a total stranger, a fleeting glimpse of lives spiced with a little something extra.


'Effortlessly conjures surprises, brilliantly realized, pricelessly entertaining' Observer

'Tremendous, unsettling, brilliantly creepy' Independent

'A compelling and often startling collection of stories. Vickers is a storyteller of note and grace' Daily Express

'Tense and mysterious' The Lady

About the Author

Salley Vickers

Salley Vickers is the author of the word-of-mouth bestseller Miss Garnet's Angel and several other bestselling novels including Mr Golightly's Holiday, The Other Side of You and Dancing Backwards as well as a collection of short stories Aphrodite's Hat. She has worked as a cleaner, a dancer, a university teacher of literature and a psychoanalyst. She is currently a RLF fellow at Newnham College Cambridge and she divides her time between Cambridge and London.

Her first name, Salley (about which she is often asked, and which can cause problems on computer searches for her books), is spelled with an ‘e’ because it is the Irish for ‘willow’ (from the Latin: salix, salicis) as in the W. B. Yeats poem, ‘Down by the salley gardens’.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd March 2016


Salley Vickers

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Penguin Books Ltd


224 pages


Literary Fiction
Short Story Collections
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Short stories



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