'A lovely book . . . wise at heart and filled with colourful characters' Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat
A beautifully beguiling new novel from Salley Vickers, author of the bestselling Miss Garnet's Angel and winner of the 2007 IMPAC Dublin award, as heard on Radio 4's Book at Bedtime.
There is something special about the ancient cathedral in Chartres, with its mismatched spires, astonishing stained-glass and strange labyrinth. And there is something special too about Agnès Morel, the mysterious woman who is to be found cleaning it each morning.
No one quite knows where she came from - not the diffident Abbé Paul, who discovered her one morning twenty years ago, sleeping in the north porch; nor lonely Professor Jones, whose chaotic existence she helps to organise; nor Philippe Nevers, whose neurotic sister and newborn child she cares for; nor even the irreverent young restorer, Alain Fleury, who works alongside her each day and whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes, her colourful clothes and elusive manner. And yet everyone she encounters would surely agree that she has touched their lives in subtly transformative ways, even though they couldn't quite say how.
But with a chance meeting in the cathedral one day, the spectre of Agnès' past returns, provoking malicious speculation from the prejudiced Madame Beck and her gossipy companion Madame Picot. As the rumours grow more ugly, Agnès is forced to confront her history, and the mystery of her origins finally unfolds.
The Cleaner of Chartres is a compelling story of darkness and light; of traumatic loss and second chances. Told with a sparkling wit and beguiling charm, but infused throughout with deeper truths, it speaks of the power of love and mercy to transform the tragedies of the past.
'Salley Vickers is a novelist whose imaginative journey always promises magic and mystery. The Cleaner of Chartres shows her on top form in a rich weave of loss and redemption spiked with Ms Vickers' irrepressible wit' Robert McCrum, Observer
'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
'Salley Vickers sees with a clear eye and writes with a light hand and she knows how the world works. She's a presence worth cherishing' Philip Pullman
'Reveals itself as a surprising exploration of the mysteries of imagination and faith' Joanna Trollope, Book of the Year, Daily Telegraph
'Rich, complex and haunting' Sunday Times
'Subtle and utterly joyous...a contemporary moral and psychological drama every bit as absorbing as Miss Garnet's Angel' Sunday Times
'A magical and at times sinister story about love, loss, secrets and forgiveness...with Chocolat-type charm' Scotland on Sunday
'The Cleaner of Chartres is a return to form' Sunday Express
'Combining grace with gravity and wisdom with wit, this latest novel by Salley Vickers simply radiates soul' Red
'If you're looking for a book to take you by surprise, Salley Vickers' latest is the perfect choice' Psychologies
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.