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The Cleaner of Chartres Hardcover – 1 Nov 2012


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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (240 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,029 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

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Sep 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This bewitching novel follows the life of Agnes Morel, who was found asleep one day in the North Porch of the cathedral of Notre-Dame, in the old town of Chartres. Each chapter alternates between her past and her present, as we learn how Agnes was found as an abandoned baby, how she was brought up in a convent and how tragedy overcame her. Eventually she flees to Chartres, where she gradually finds a place of her own, cleaning both at the cathedral and the homes of many of the towns inhabitants, and becoming an essential part of the lives of many people in the community, . Amongst those who lives are touched by Agnes are Robert Clement, an artist who Agnes models for, Professor Jones, who relies on Agnes to organise him, Abbe Bernard who is elderly and confused, Philippe Nevers, who Agnes babysit as a young boy, and Alain who is restoring the cathedral. Unfortunately for Agnes, some of the 'others' include the vicious gossip Madame Beck, who feels that Agnes has 'bad blood'. When Madame Beck discovers the secrets of Agnes early life, she uses the information against her. When a tragedy occurs, what starts as slander becomes dangerous...

Agnes is a wonderful character - naive, solitary and deeply hurt, but always kind and gentle. Madame Beck is someone that, sadly, we all recognise. The bitter and unkind gossip, who delights in spreading ill will under the guise of concern for others. Yet both the vicious Madame Beck and Agnes herself underestimate the regard in which she is held. I have always loved Sally Vickers novels and this is easily up there with the best of her work; great characters, well plotted and with interesting themes, this would be ideal for a book club as there is so much to discuss and enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Teresa Lipson on 14 Oct 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This inspired quite a lot of controversy (good!) in our book group with quite varying views. I myself was quite bored for the first quarter or third of the book and may not have continued if it hadnt been a book group choice. It did gather momentum after that but I found the writing style condescending and the characterizations one-dimensional although there were a couple of pantomime dames to provide amusement.
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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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