SALLEY VICKERS IS an audacious writer. who dares to tread where few in this apostate age would wish to venture. At a time when the Church of England is struggling to persuade its dwindling congregation that faith is still relevant in the twenty-first century, Vickers writes quietly and confidently about the relationship between nature, humanity and the numinous. Her first novel, Miss Garnet’s Angel, describing the spiritual odyssey of an ageing spinster, was an unexpected bestseller. Her second, Instances of the Number 3, was equally gripping, not least because one of the characters, like Hamlet’s father, keeps popping back from purgatory to sort out unfinished business. In Mr Golightly’s Holiday, she sets out to revise Milton by explaining the ways of man to God. The result is a brilliantly executed roman à clef simultaneously funny, sad and surprising.