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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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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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on 27 April 2013
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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on 24 March 2013
This was the first Salley Vickers book I read, and I'm now a fan. The cleaner, Agnes, is something of a mystery - she's very capable and obliging, but is there some dark secret in her past? Certainly one or two of the residents of Chartres seem to think so, and they set out to establish her guilt. Salley Vickers has a knack for describing our all too human frailties as well as our redeeming qualities. This was a fascinating tale, and I'm so glad I discovered Salley Vickers by reading it. Highly recommended.
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on 2 July 2016
I am quite a fan of this author having read most if not all her novels, so I had no hesitation in uploading this to my Kindle cloud and I wasn't disappointed . It is a complex character filled novel which might not appeal to everyone.

I read the entry for Chartres and its Cathedral in Wikipedia before I started: it reaches back to the 12th Century. The story also takes in the not too distant towns and cities of Evreux, Rouen and Le Manx.

The 'cleaner', Agnes Morel, first appears (to the new Curate) at the Cathedral as a young lady seeking shelter for the night by sleeping under a man's coat. Reluctant to turn her out to (what must seem) a hostile world he helps her to earn a living by performing daily chores (washing, ironing, babysitting, etc) for the inhabitants of the Cathedral Close. Eventually she gets taken on as the main cleaner when the then current lady retires. All this was twenty years before our story starts to unfold. There will however be many lengthy past passages as the early life of Agnes unfolds, much of which is traumatic.

The Story is how Agnes interacts with the many different characters she encounters, the Residents of the close, the Cathedral Clergy and and Visitors of all kinds.
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on 1 September 2013
Having been blown away by Miss Garnet's Angel and Falling Backwards some years ago, I've just read this because it was my book group's book this month. Unfortunately I'd just read Mr Golightly, which I'd found wonderfully written but a bit meandering and padded - and this book is written on a very similar model, almost a suspicion of a formula. Take one misfit outsider, a holy fool type, put them in a small community, let them encounter everyone in the village... so I've found this harder to get excited about even though there are many flashes of wonderful writing. Some of it is just facts about Chartres Cathedral, and I felt there wasn't much driving the plot which in fact at the end peters out rather as if the author wasn't sure where to go with it. She made the cleaner so enigmatic it was hard to be as concerned about her as I needed to be to get fully involved. A very good novel though and I'm sure many people love it. I should have reviewed Miss Garnet at the time so will do that now!
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on 2 November 2012
'The Cleaner of Chartres' is another sublime Salley Vickers novel. The writing is superbly crafted. It is the story of Agnes a mysterious woman who was found abandoned as a baby. We follow Agnes story from her troubled teenage years when a shocking event shapes the next stage of her life. I particulary liked how the subtle nuances of Agnes fragile character is conveyed. There are many touching scenes in the novel cleverly interwoven with some quite humorous touches. The cathedral plays an important part to the plot and is beautifully descripted in salley Vickers beautiful and elegant prose. Any fans of 'Miss Garnett's angel will love this book
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on 16 June 2013
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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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There is something magical and mysterious about Chartres Cathedral so it makes a wonderful setting for Salley Vickers' latest book. The Cleaner of Chartres tells the story of Agnès Morel. She seemed to appear from nowhere, with no history, no possessions and no friends. In the following twenty years or so she has remained in Chartres and has taken on the role of cleaner of the cathedral as well as also working intermittently in a café, as a babysitter and as a cleaner of peoples' houses. She is calm and gentle and rarely speaks of her past.

Her presence intrigues and fascinates and she has a profound effect on many who regard her with great affection. But not all the town's inhabitants are so benign and there are some spiteful gossips who resent her and are determined to find out the truth about her background.

Salley Vickers has written a sort of fairy tale. Agnès is the innocent at the heart of the story - found in a basket and raised by nuns. There are good fairies (some of the nuns, the friends she meets in Chartres, the Abbé Paul and her "foster father" Jean Dupère) and there are bad fairies (some of the nuns, Mesdames Beck and Picot). There are even several handsome princes. But, like all good fairy stories, this one has some real darkness at it heart.

So, does everything work out for Agnès in the end? Well, as Salley Vickers says "There are no true endings..."

A lovely book.
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on 14 October 2013
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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