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Miss Garnet's Angel Paperback – 5 Mar 2007

187 customer reviews

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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 19,983 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.


'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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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 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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31 of 32 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback
We all borrowed this and read it a few years ago, and greatly enjoyed it. I remembered it again whilst browsing in the airport bookshop on the way to Venice and bought a copy to take with me. The tale of an elderly lady's Venitian adventures, and the way it is tied up with the biblical story of Tobias and Raphael is compelling, and it was pleasing to be able to use the information at the back of the book (which even includes a map) to track down some of the locations. We'd never been to the Chiesa dell'Angelo Raffaele before, and the discovery of the statue and the paintings of Tobias and Raphael was delightful. As was the quiet square behind the church, which is where Miss Garnet lives in the early part of the story. It's a pleasant, stimulating read and such are the descriptive powers of the author that you can clearly imagine the people and places she writes about even if you're not there.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amy Page on 18 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the second of Salley Vickers books I've read, the first being 'Dancing backwards' which I found disappointing. However I then heard glowing accounts of 'Miss Garnet's Angel' and thought I'd try another Vickers novel, (her first I believe). What a totally enchanting book, M.G.A is, not just because it is set in Venice but also for the mystery surrounding the Angel Raphael, the references to The Aprocrypha and story of Tobias.
The characters are delightful, well drawn, especially Miss Garnet and the friends she'd left behind in England. For those it was possible to feel 'sympatico'. I felt less enthusiastic about modern day Sarah, and the older Italian, Carlo, who befriended Julia Garnet. Carlo was charming, extremely knowledgeable about the Art, History etc. of Venice and the reader senses the deep pain Julia Garnet feels when she realises that Carlo's friendship was not for her company alone! Monsignore is delightful, has a sense of humour and is deeply sensitive towards others.
Miss Garnet's Angel is full of information, provocative ideas for research and further reading. A novel to read several times, especially if visiting or revisiting Venice. How fascinating it would be to trace Miss Garnet's footsteps!
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I didn't know what to expect from Miss Garnets Angel, I half anticipated an antiquated read, fairly stereotypical but potentially heart-warming. An old lady, art and Venice suggested to me a sedate book, good to read but nothing new. The reality was very different.
The subtlety and delicacy of the writing, the way the story is so well crafted, the strands of the older Tobias story woven in seamlessly stunned me. Salley Vickers does indeed eulogise over art and architecture but she's also not afraid to add a harsher realism to the story. Miss Garnet is not some ephemeral creature steeped in a life of sorrow she's a real, solid character.
This was a book I read slowly so as to not miss anything, I set aside time in the day to read it and made sure everything was quiet. Usually I snatch at books and gulp them down, taking every opportunity to read but I found I didn't want to with this book.
The quiet sadness of Miss Garnet, the lyrical descriptions of the paintings and Venice and the poignant and well-crafted ending make this a gem of a book.
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