Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

Look what I got just in time for Paris in July 2013?  The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers!  Now, I've never read a book by Vickers, but I have heard great things about her work.  So, of course I excitedly agreed to read this book - especially after I read the book summary:

"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!!


Carole said...

oooh, Nadia. I do hope you'll link this in to Your Favourite Travel Books which has just started over at Carole's Chatter. Cheers

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Carole, thanks for the tip ;)

Tamara said...

Sounds like a challenging story - it also sounds like it has similarities with the story of Seraphine - someone reviewed that for Paris in July last year. I'm intrigued by stories of secret lives of past and present. Thanks.

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Tamara, thanks for the mention of Seraphine - I'm going to check it out :)

Elizabeth said...

I really liked this book.

Silver's Reviews

Nadia said...

Elizabeth, it was great!

Lisa said...

Dang, I knew I shouldn't have passed on this one!

Mrs. Fry said...

Oh girl, I love coming to you blog, and finding a good book to read!
Checking this one out for sure.