The Cleaner of Chartres: Book summary and reviews of The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

The Cleaner of Chartres

A Novel

By Salley Vickers

The Cleaner of Chartres
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2013,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Though the darks and lights could be more nuanced, and the author's hand could be lighter, Vickers uses the Chartres Cathedral to ground a charming if not entirely surprising story." - Publishers Weekly

"With a deft hand, Vickers shows us the layers of human need - to be loved, accepted, and believed - and wraps it in a structure as intricate as the cathedral itself." - Booklist

"[Vickers] does an exemplary job of exploring themes of loss and healing while ending the novel on a hopeful note…. The evocative setting adds a timeless quality to this narrative, and Vickers reminds us that the past cannot remain entirely in the past." - Library Journal

"A skillful miniature psychodrama delivered with humor and knowing restraint." - Kirkus Reviews

"There's a timelessness about The Cleaner of Chartres…Vickers draws on an intimate understanding of human behavior." - The Bookseller

"Salley Vickers is a novelist whose imaginative journey always promises magic and mystery. The Cleaner of Chartres shows her on top form in a rich weave of loss and redemption spiked with Ms. Vickers' irrepressible wit." - The Observer (UK)

"The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers is a subtle and ultimately joyous meditation on the nature of sin. The fairy-tale elements of Vickers's novel are delicately layered into a contemporary moral and psychological drama every bit as absorbing as her Miss Garnet's Angel." - The Sunday Times (UK)

"With its subtle combination of explorations of faith and love, The Cleaner of Chartres is something of a return to the terrain of Vickers's first novel…Each character is drawn with skillful precision." - The Independent (UK)

"Salley Vickers has created in Agnès Morel a heroine for whom we passionately want the best, even as we fear the worst…Agnès's life is full of surprising complications. Watching Vickers conjure her large cast of characters and make her way through these is, from first to last, a huge pleasure." - Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

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Salley Vickers is a former university professor of literature and Jungian psychotherapist. Vickers's first novel, Miss Garnet's Angel, was a book club favorite and an international bestseller. She lives in London and is currently Royal Literary Fund fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, UK.

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