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Miss Garnet's Angel Paperback – 5 Mar 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (5 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006514219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006514213
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Salley Vickers' subtle, witty style and clear-eyed observation of human nature has been compared to Penelope Fitzgerald and Barbara Pym. She has worked as a university teacher of literature, specialising in Shakespeare, and in adult education, where she specialised in the literature of the ancient world. She is a trained analytical psychologist and lectures widely on the connections between literature, psychology and religion. She divides her time between London, Venice and the West Country.

Product Description

Amazon Review

There is something very old-fashioned and reassuring about Sally Vickers' novel Miss Garnet's Angel. The themes, self-discovery and redemption have the air of a bygone age, despite the novel being set in contemporary Venice in a world of holiday apartment lets and Pizza Express-funded restoration works. Julia Garnet is a middle-aged woman who has been practising economies of the spirit for years. Hers is a closed-in world, dusty with Marx's theories and when her friend and flatmate of 30 years dies Julia decides to spend the six winter months in Venice to recuperate from her loss. Miss Garnet is a dignified, brusque heroine and Sally Vickers' prose is likewise unruffled and controlled. Miss Garnet's epiphanies are as quiet and subtle as the "oro pallido" (pale gold) light in early Italian Art because, of course, art plays a part in this Venetian tale of emotional reawakening. Julia is moved by the depiction of Raphael in Guardis Tobias and the Angel: "something rusty and hard shifted deep inside Julia Garnet as she stood absorbing the vivid dewy painting and the unmistakable compassion in the angel's bright glance." She falls in love with Carlo, an art historian with crinkly eyes, white hair and a moustache. There are trials and tribulations to be undergone, Julia must unlearn all her old regimented ways of life, and this brings about heart ache and hurt. However, Vickers handles this with delicate sympathy, giving Julia Garnet a new sensitive view of the world, and the reader a resonant story of transformation. --Eithne Farry --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

'Subtle, unexpected and haunting.' Penelope Fitzgerald

'Very kind, very funny.' John Bayley

'Rich, complex and haunting…she makes the ancient story as riveting as Miss Garnet's own adventures.' Sunday Times

Reveals itself as a surprising exploration of the mysteries of imagination and faith.' Joanna Trollope, Daily Telegraph, Book of the Year

'A subtle, witty tale.' John de Falbe, Spectator


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By S. Barnes on 25 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
`Death is outside life but it alters it: it leaves a hole in the fabric of things which those who are left behind try to repair.' Thus opens the novel.

Julia Garnet and her long-standing companion and flatmate Harriet decide to retire from work together, on the same day, but when two days later Harriet unexpectedly dies, Miss Garnet decides it is time to take a trip abroad and settles upon six months in Venice. Cautious, dignified and unadventurous by nature, Julia is also a virgin and inexperienced in matters of the heart. Venice is quite a revelation.

Julia discovers feelings of passion for the first time when she comes across the Guardi panels in the Chiesa dell'Angelo Raffaele (Church of Angelo Raffaele), which depict the Apocryphal story of Tobias and the Angel. As she views the paintings ...'Something rusty and hard shifted deep inside Julia Garnet', and she goes on to make further emotional discoveries through her friendships and discoveries in the city of Venice. Julia discovers that for the first time in her life she is able to befriend others, and counts among her friends a couple she accused of queue jumping the taxi rank on her first day, a young boy, Nicco, the unsuitable and overly-attentive Carlo, a couple of young English church restorers, and a charming priest.

The ancient Jewish story of Tobias and the Angel is deftly interwoven amongst Julia's story of re-awakening and discovery. Tobias undertakes his journey of ancient times as Julia travels in the present day, and there are subtle threads between them.

Quite a surprise and not at all what I was expecting, `Miss Garnet's Angel' is a breath of fresh air to read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A repressed spinster in her fifties, retired from her career as an uninspiring school teacher, a communist and anti-religious, Julia Garnet travels to Venice, falls in love with it (devotees of Venice will relish the evocations of the city), is gradually thawed out by its beauty and stimulus and by people she meets there. She has rented an apartment in the Campo Angelo Raffaele, behind the church dedicated to that angel. She gradually comes to learn the story of Tobias and the Angel Raphael and indeed to show increasing interest in it; and she is also drawn closer and closer to Catholic imagery and to a Catholic priest.

Salley Vickers intersperses her narrative with instalments, with some additional inventions of her own, of the Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha. With each instalment she adds a little more to the account in the Book of Tobit. At first these additions amount to very little, but the later ones are based on research that has been done which has found that the Book of Tobit (written during the time when the Jews were living under Persian rule) probably has Zoroastrian roots, and each subsequent instalment veers further and further away from the original.

One has the feeling that Julia's experiences in Venice should have some bearing on the story and vice versa; but it is difficult for a long time to see what these might be. For much of the book, the inserted instalments relating to the Book of Tobit seem to have no relevance, either directly or indirectly, to the passages on either side of the insertion - only towards the end do they converge.

Julia meets an English pair, a young man and a young woman, who are restoring the masonry in a chapel (invented by Salley Vickers) which also has a sculpted Raphael and also a painted panel of him.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. P. Foster on 20 Oct. 2005
Format: Paperback
Following the unexpected death of her friend, Miss Garnett starts a new life in Venice - at an age when most would be settled and unchangable.
She is transformed by the beauty of her new surroundings, and sheds the inhibiting skin of her old life.
It is wonderful to read a story centred around someone over retirement age, that is not bleak, but life affirming.
The story has a number of unexpected turns, with several finely drawn characters, and a depth of history founded on the Book of Tobit.
Only one character - Toby - diappoints, with unconvincing description and dialogue.
This book is worth reading more than once, and would be a wonderful choice for taking on holiday to Venice.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hestia on 23 May 2008
Format: Paperback
Do not be put off by the reviewers here who, while entitled to their opinions, clearly fail to grasp the deeply poetic timbre of Salley Vickers' voice and extraordinary story-telling. This is a wonderfully evocative and spellbinding novel, as well as truly erudite, in the best sense of the word (knowing, rather than merely knowledge-laden). Salley Vickers writes with passion, characteristic precision, and a deeply sympathetic ear for all that is hidden and hurting in the human heart. Julia Garnet is an endearing, gracious creation, and her transformation from icy schoolmarm to spiritual seeker is both beautiful and wholly believable. The descriptions of Venice, the story of Tobias and Raphael, and the Catholic iconography are all redolent with a rich and inky Gnosticism that is beautifully rendered. I wanted to hop onto the next plane to Venice to go and see for myself! The structure of the main narrative, interwoven with a stunning retelling of the Book of Tobit, is unselfconsciously clever as well as compelling: both narratives gripped me from beginning to end, as I found myself reading well into the small hours of the night. Julia's gradual discovery of her social and spiritual self, as she makes her own pilgrim's progress through the complexity and conflict of human (and divine) relationships, will offer hope to all who have ever been lost or alone. All in all, a joy and an inspiration. I keep returning to this book, taking something new and strangely healing away with me each time. That's what all great art does.
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