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The Cleaner of Chartres Hardcover – 1 Nov 2012

265 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (1 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670922129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670922123
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (265 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 251,631 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

Review

A lovely book . . . wise at heart and filled with colourful characters (Joanne Harris, Author Of Chocolat )

Subtle and utterly joyous...a contemporary moral and psychological drama every bit as absorbing as Miss Garnet's Angel (Sunday Times )

The Cleaner of Chartres is a return to form (Sunday Express )

The Cleaner of Chartres touches lightly on the seedy side of human nature (Observer )

A magical and at times sinister story about love, loss, secrets and forgiveness...with Chocolat-type charm (Scotland on Sunday )

If you're looking for a book to take you by surprise, Salley Vickers' latest is the perfect choice (Psychologies )

With its subtle combination of explorations of faith and love, The Cleaner of Chartres is something of a return to the terrain of Vickers's first novel, Miss Garnet's Angel. Certainly, it's another gem (Independent )

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lovely Treez TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Redemption and self-discovery are recurrent themes in Salley Vickers' writing and she tackles the same subjects here in The Cleaner of Chartres. The central hub of the story is the ancient cathedral of Chartres which attracts a wide range of visitors, each one seeking something different to fulfil their incomplete lives. Agnes Morel is the enigmatic young woman at the centre of events, quietly engrossed in her task of cleaning but having a lasting effect on those who come in contact with her.

As the novel unfolds we gradually put together the pieces of Agnes' traumatic past, parts of which come back to haunt her. The supporting cast of locals are flawed, living, breathing individuals from the troubled, senile Abbe Bernard to the local gossiping widows Mmes Beck and Picot. Their stories intertwine with that of Agnes and we feel part of this small community.

This is a character-driven novel, exquisitely slow moving and beautifully written in a gentle, engaging style. It will probably also appeal to fans of the Chocolat series by Joanne Harris and the film Amelie.
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75 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 4 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a beautifully written, thoughtful and engaging book. I enjoyed Miss Garnett's Angel many years ago and tried The Cleaner of Chartres on the strength of it. I was very happy that I had because I enjoyed it very much.

Salley Vickers is a marvellous storyteller and she very subtly creates very believable and recognisable characters, showing their inner lives with gentle penetration and, on the whole, great compassion. I found this aspect of the novel especially involving and her gently-painted psychological insights are what have lingered most strongly with me, and her portraits of aspects and origins of kindness and malice, of decency and selfishness, of humility and self-certainty and so on were very shrewd and delicately done.

Vickers also generates a wonderful sense of place, and the redemptive tale of Agnes, an orphan lost in the world and despised by some but finding her place among people who have come to respect and admire her is both captivating and wise in itself. There are notable similarities to Miss Garnett: the central character is a lonely woman who, without overtly searching, stumbles toward spiritual and personal fulfilment, the central setting is a cathedral where an ancient image is being restored and so on. Nevertheless, it works very well as a tale in its own right and I never felt I was being fobbed off with a re-hash.

You may get a flavour of the style from this: "The sun, shifting in its westward path, was already lighting the South Rose window and smudges of colour, refracted through the glass, were blessing the grey stone of the walls by the scaffolding that concealed the benign Blue Virgin." I found that, and a lot else in the book, extremely evocative and read it all with unalloyed pleasure and I recommend it very warmly - it's a really enjoyable read which will stay with me for a long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Field on 28 May 2013
Format: Paperback
Ultimately, I found this uplifting, moving and thought-provoking - after being tempted to give up in frustration!

What I liked: the setting of the cathedral, the focus on the cleaner as the central character, the exploration of religious characters and their impact on the world, the mystery of paternity, and in Agnes' case, maternity, the chance encounters and their consequences - some of which are expounded on, others, like the ear-ring revelation at the end, not, the happy ending. I liked the spiralling time lines, echoing the Chartres Labyrinth, but I think they are hard to handle. The exploration of good and evil and unintended consequences is interesting - but the huge cast of characters led to some stereotyping and shallowness.

What I disliked: the style early on drove me nuts on a sentence level, so many adjectives, adverbs and clumsy syntax and a `deary-me' kind of voice that sometimes became inappropriately lyrical. Mid-way through the book, it got much cleaner and tighter, although there are some asides and in-jokes that seem to be in Salley Vickers' voice. There were far too many characters and whilst I liked the slow reveal in many cases, it seemed a bit arbitrary and sometimes unlikely and inconsistent. For example, Agnes' one friend, Terry, is skated over whilst we get all of Prof Jones' geneology. Some characters get lots of back story, some none, some key characters we don't even know their age til later. Dr Deman didn't quite add up - not that people do in reality but for the machine of a novel there needs to be some consistency.

In conclusion - I was suddenly gripped half way through when eventually Agnes was realised enough to be credible. The cruelty of the psychiatric system that imprisoned her after the vile convent became vivid and I was genuinely moved to tears by the terrible and unjust accusation later. Good to have a happy ending!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mikey on 27 April 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The constant zigzaging in place and time is initially a pain. However, at the end I was galloping along and the finish caught me by surprise. Clever story with lot of baddies and unexpected goodies. Makes you think about faith and the Clergy.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By DebB VINE VOICE on 24 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hmmm, much has been written so I'll be brief...
I found this a rather simplistic, and pointless story really. I had no real trouble finishing it, but I didn't find myself making time to read just a bit more
Our heroine suffers much, there are a few cardboard baddies - the nasty nun and the horrid Madame Beck, some saints - the Abbe and, I suppose, Alain, and some in betweens. For some characters we had a lot of their internal musings and so could create more of an image of who they are, (Dr Deman, for example) but for others we had none. I have no idea what Alain thought of anything, or why he was where he was, or where he came from.
The book develops slowly and initially, intriguingly, with this reader wondering what the mystery of the Cleaner of Chatres was going to be, and then, suddenly, whoof and it's over, with a little epilogue briskly accounting for the next decade or so. Nice people get nice endings, the baddies are, if not defeated exactly, then left in their badness.
It's a story, with a jump-about timeline and very predictable ending - maybe I missed the point?
Oh, and if you're interested in Chatres cathedral, this contains large chunks of guide book detail - take it on a trip there and explore with it!
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