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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 9 March 2017
I loved the book and, when I visited Venice, had to find the Angel Raphael too.
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on 24 May 2017
Over- researched, resulting in a sometimes contrived narrative. However, I did read it while in Venice and enjoyed visiting some of the places mentioned and learned some more of the history.
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on 9 March 2017
I enjoyed this tale of self discovery set in glorious Venice. The side storyline was a challenge but worth it.
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on 28 June 2017
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 November 2007
A repressed spinster in her fifties, retired from her career as an uninspiring school teacher, a communist and anti-religious, Julia Garnet travels to Venice, falls in love with it (devotees of Venice will relish the evocations of the city), is gradually thawed out by its beauty and stimulus and by people she meets there. She has rented an apartment in the Campo Angelo Raffaele, behind the church dedicated to that angel. She gradually comes to learn the story of Tobias and the Angel Raphael and indeed to show increasing interest in it; and she is also drawn closer and closer to Catholic imagery and to a Catholic priest.

Salley Vickers intersperses her narrative with instalments, with some additional inventions of her own, of the Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha. With each instalment she adds a little more to the account in the Book of Tobit. At first these additions amount to very little, but the later ones are based on research that has been done which has found that the Book of Tobit (written during the time when the Jews were living under Persian rule) probably has Zoroastrian roots, and each subsequent instalment veers further and further away from the original.

One has the feeling that Julia's experiences in Venice should have some bearing on the story and vice versa; but it is difficult for a long time to see what these might be. For much of the book, the inserted instalments relating to the Book of Tobit seem to have no relevance, either directly or indirectly, to the passages on either side of the insertion - only towards the end do they converge.

Julia meets an English pair, a young man and a young woman, who are restoring the masonry in a chapel (invented by Salley Vickers) which also has a sculpted Raphael and also a painted panel of him. Rather obviously they are called Toby and Sarah (like the characters in the Book of Tobit - though at this point a reader who has not already read that book would not yet know this). The closest correspondences between the Book of Tobit and the plot of the novel are with this pair; and these begin only about half-way through the novel. Only once or twice are there correspondences with Julia herself.

The story of Julia in Venice and of her interest in the Book of Tobit would stand well on its own, even if one does not look for any parallels. It has many wise reflections about human relationships and personal development. There are allusions to other literature; there are digs at arid rationalism and a reference to a destructive Freudian analysis (Salley Vickers is a Jungian analyst). The book reads easily, though there is the very occasional slight clunkiness of expression or description which betrays that this is a first novel. If I feel that I cannot give it the full five stars it is because I felt I was being invited to look for a more satisfying connection between the novel and the story of Tobias and the Angel, which the book, perhaps teasingly, withheld from me for so long. It is true that the revealing of psychic histories has something in common with a detective stories, but for me the way the two genres were mixed in this novel did not quite come off.
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on 18 August 2010
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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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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on 25 February 2014
This was a choice from my book Club and I struggled through the first 100 pages before giving up. Unfortunately Venetian church architecture and biblical stories are not for me. I will however be interested to hear at my next Book Club meeting what the others thought about it and what happened to Miss Garnett at the end of her 6 month sojourn.
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on 25 September 2008
`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. The unsophisticated anti-heroine, Julia, is so down-to-earth, so dignified, and for her years so naive, that she is quite plausible, believable and ultimately delightful, as she discovers each new experience and her confidence grows. A thoroughly enjoyable novel of travel and discovery and one I have no hesitation in recommending to anyone.
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on 13 March 2017
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