Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers
"From the author of Miss Garnet’s Angel, a story of the redemptive power of love and community in the famous French cathedral town
There is something very special about Agnès Morel. A quiet presence in the small French town of Chartres, she can be found cleaning the famed medieval cathedral each morning and doing odd jobs for the townspeople. No one knows where she came from or why. Not Abbé Paul, who discovered her one morning twenty years ago, sleeping on the north porch, and not Alain Fleury, the irreverent young restorer who works alongside her each day and whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes and elusive manner. She has transformed each of their lives in her own subtle way, yet no one suspects the dark secret Agnès is hiding.
When an accidental encounter dredges up a series of tragic incidents from Agnès’s youth, the nasty meddling of town gossips threatens to upend the woman’s simple, peaceful life. Her story reveals a terrible loss, a case of mistaken identity, and a cruel and violent act that haunts her past. Agnès wrestles with her own sense of guilt and enduring heartbreak while the citizens piece together the truth about her life."
Sounds pretty mysterious and intriguing, eh? Well, it is. Or at least it has been (so far). Its a rather slow-going book, but I like that. I'm enjoying dipping in and out of it, as it flips back and forth in time revealing bits and bobs about the elusive Agnès Morel. I like the long descriptions of the Cathedral, Chartres, the inhabitants and their own personal stories (or gossiping). Its making for quite the perfect lunchtime read. I find myself transported by Vickers' writing so much so, that when I head back to work, my mind is still with Agnès and her worlds. I say worlds, because in one chapter you read about Agnès, the heavily sedated mental patient; while in another chapter you get Agnès, the cathedral cleaner who works odd jobs and keeps to herself. You can't help but be fascinated by this young woman, who you keep reading about, but don't really know. So far I have learned a few things though: she was a foundling, she was raised by nuns, she had a baby that was given up for adoption (or sale?), she is quiet, she is a hard worker, she is very secretive, and she may or may not have stabbed a nanny. Talk about keeping me on my toes - I'm starting to wonder which Agnès I'll be reading about in the end. All in all, I'm thoroughly enjoying this book and looking forward to reading more of it tomorrow.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!!