I normally do not write reviews or advertise on my blog, but this is an exception to the rule! I was approached to give my opinion of The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers, and because it is based in France, and is also about the wonderful cathedral city of Chartres, which we have visited see HERE, I decided to make the exception.
Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (1 Nov 2012)
First Sentences: 'The old town of Chartres, which around the modern town anaesthetically sprawls, is built on a natural elevation that rises from a wide, wheat growing plain in the region of Beauce in central France. Visitors and pilgrims, who since earliest times have made their ways to the ancient site, can see the cathedral of Notre Dame from many miles off, the twin spires, like loft beacons, encouraging them onwards
Review Quote: "A lovely book . . . wise at heart and filled with colourful characters" (Joanne Harris, Author Of Chocolat )
My Opinion: A great read and I particularly loved the background history of the cathedral.
The story is about a young woman, Agnes, who was discovered as a baby, in a basket in a field, by a man who took her to a convent, where she was brought up by nuns. A turn of events appeared to make her psychologically unstable, but she befriended a doctor who eventually turned her life around. She finally took on the job as the cleaner of the Chartres cathedral. Sadly, a well-to-do local lady, who Agnes also cleaned for, caused a lot of trouble for Agnes. The story was even more interesting to me, in that there were many descriptions of the cathedral, and some background of its history, and I could place a number of the events, having been to the scene, although that was not necessary to get the best out of the book.
The story switches, in its telling, from the subject's early life to her present life, and back again, on a number of occasions. I found this sometimes difficult to follow and had to flip back every now and again to be able to absorb the next part of the story. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book's original plot and characters, and anyone who loves France would, I think, find it a rewarding read.
Author profile: Vickers is a novelist in the great English tradition of moral seriousness. Her characters suffer, they struggle to be true to both themselves and the promptings of the human heart.
If you enjoy the work of Marilynne Robinson, Penelope Fitzgerald, James Salter or Anita Brookner, you should be reading Vickers. All these authors reflect with grace and gravity on life’s moments of sorrowful epiphany.’ Michael Dirda, Washington Post.
To read more about Salley and the other books she has written see HERE
Barcelona Part 3 to follow very soon