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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Gentle
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...
Published on 14 Nov. 2012 by Lovely Treez

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For me a somewhat simple story, that lacked a point...
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...
Published on 24 Nov. 2012 by DebB


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Gentle, 14 Nov. 2012
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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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 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, thoughtful and engaging, 4 Oct. 2012
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Style drove me nuts but the story gripped me half-way through, 28 May 2013
By 
Victoria Field "fal" (Canterbury, Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Confused? You probably will be., 27 April 2013
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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
3.0 out of 5 stars For me a somewhat simple story, that lacked a point..., 24 Nov. 2012
By 
DebB (Oxfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an interesting book, 16 Jun. 2013
By 
J. A. Berry "Hoobah" (Canterbury, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book was chosen for me by my book club. I had not previously read any of Salley Vickers' books and by the look of the cover I don't think I would have chosen it myself. How wrong I would have been as it is a lovely book written both in the present and past about an intriguing woman who works as a cleaner both in Chartres cathedral and in the homes of some of the local inhabitants. She has an air of mystery about her, but gradually her story unfolds. It's a very good book on several levels and I enjoyed it very much. Last week I attended a meeting where we met Salley and she told us more about her inspiration for the book and her method of story telling. She answered all the questions fully and I came away very impressed and determined to buy another of her books.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gentle insight, 22 Dec. 2012
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J. Hildreth "J.A.@zarnok" (Bath uk) - See all my reviews
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This lovely evocative story gently reveals an approach to mental health that helps question our reliance on medication and containment as used today here in the UK. The overall story with some wonderful characters such as the Abbott and the Doctor, who are the heroes for me, have made this book a new favorite.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cleaner of Chartres, 24 Sept. 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bringing Chartres to life - a great read!, 28 Aug. 2013
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A wonderful combination of history and fiction about a place that is accessible to us today. I was in the cathedral for vespers on Sunday and finished reading the book today - I walked with Vickers' characters, felt there sorrows and joys and could see their dramas play out. I thoroughly recommend this book wherever you are.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story, but let down by the ending, 31 Jan. 2013
By 
A. Taylor (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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The Cleaner of Chartres has the feel of a 'holiday' book about it. By that I mean it's not too taxing to read, has an interesting plot and everything is wrapped up neatly in the end. This is not a bad thing as such and it really is a rather good story that Sally Vickers has written here.

The story itself is very engaging, as is the main character of Agnes (the cleaner), so the pages whipped by at a reasonable pace. It really was the ending that I enjoyed the least as it felt as if everything was finished up that bit too neatly for my liking. It's still a book I'd recommend, but if you're after something more challenging then I'd advise you to look elsewhere.
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The Cleaner of Chartres
The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers (Paperback - 29 April 2014)
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