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Miss Garnet's Angel: A Novel Hardcover – February, 2001

51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Guardian angels have attained such trendy status in American popular fiction that it's refreshing to read Vickers, a writer from across the Atlantic, whose subtle depiction of a life touched by a heavenly spirit carries not a hint of clich‚. Her debut novel is an unpretentious gem of a book that charts the late coming-of-age of Miss Julia Garnet, a retired English schoolteacher who spends six months in Venice after her lifelong companion, Harriet, dies. Venice has a magical effect on reserved Julia: a dyed-in-the-wool Communist, she relaxes in her antipathy toward religion, and even begins to visit the local church. There, she becomes enamored of a series of paintings that tell the story of the Apocryphal book of Tobit, a tale that mixes elements of Judaism with the religion of Zoroaster. In the story, young Tobias travels to Medea, part of the Persian Empire, to collect a debt for his father, blind Tobit. He is accompanied on his journey by a hired guide who turns out to be the Angel Raphael. As Julia learns more about Tobias's trek, she embarks upon a soul-altering journey of her own. She falls in love with an art dealer, Carlo, and befriends Sarah and Toby, twins working on the restoration of a Venetian chapel. When Toby disappears suddenly, after discovering a priceless Renaissance painting, Julia finds out that neither Carlo nor the twins are exactly what they seem--but that the Angel Raphael's watchful spirit will help good prevail. (Feb.)Forecast: This touching novel, a sleeper hit in Britain, should win American fans eager for a treatment of religious themes without the gooey sentiment that often accompanies the topic of angels.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Superbly crafted." The Atlantic Monthly

"A jewel of a novel...Brilliant and beautiful." San Francisco Chronicle

"Vickers has taken myth, religion, and secular humanism, and turned them into substantial life-affirming fiction." The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A refreshing, gentle story." Anita Brookner

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf (February 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786708239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786708239
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,354,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Beverley Strong on March 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Retired school teacher, Julia Garnet, is lonely and at a loss with what to do with her life after the death of her flat mate of many years, and decides to spend 6 months in Venice. A confirmed communist, she is amazed at the ease with which she is falling under the spell of the magnificent architecture, especially the churches, which at first she finds decadent, in view of her strict anti-church attitude. She befriends a young couple who are restoring an old chapel and becomes very involved in their lives, as well as meeting- and being totally charmed by a very dashing art dealer- who wines and dines her.Julia falls in love for the first time in her life and is shattered when things don't turn out as well as she'd hoped. I found this book to have an other-worldly feel to it as though Venice itself was responsible for normally prosiac people acting differently, just as if they were somehow charmed and under the influence of old paintings and statues, particularly those of the angel Raphael, whose biblical story interweaves with that of Julia. It's a gem of a book with such a luminous feel to it that I'm sure I'll read it again fairly soon.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Catspec on March 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
Salley Vickers is one of two writers whose discovery in the last year has once again made me glad I can still find wonderful writing. It is always a delight to discover an author to add to the "must read all they do" list. A few years ago it was Michael Chabon, and I await his next with baited breath, but in the last year there have been Charles Portis ("Masters of Atlantis" and more), and Salley Vickers. I saw this book in the library and read reviews online before reading it. It is NOT a quick and easy read, as someone suggested in these reviews. It is a parallel rendering of the story of Julia Garnet and the biblical book of Tobit, and the point is the realization that our lives aren't as cut and dried as modernity would have us believe. Raphael the Archangel is the central protagonist really, and his presence seems to seep into the story at every turn. How Julie grows and blooms is the surface story, but underneath there is a stream of the ethereal which also runs through Salley Vickers other two books, "Instances of the Number 3" and "Mr. Golightly." I read these two right after this one. I highly recommend them all.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Monica K. Van Ness on March 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
And, though reviews can sometimes lead you astray, this book is a marvelous read! I enjoyed it from beginning to end. To see how far Julia Garnet travels, and how much she learns during this story, moved me. And the changes move along slowly. You aren't battered with them. The reader sees Miss Garnet trying to work things through, so that she can move forward as she needs to. A wonderful character.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mr. K. Mahoney on October 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This novel follows approximately eleven months in the life of Miss Julia Garnet, from the Feast of Epiphany to the Feast of Raphael. Her friend, Harriet, has just died suddenly. With her habits already shaken up by the death of her companion, Julia decides to rattle them even further by jetting off to Venice, to enjoy the kind of holiday that Harriet had been planning for their joint retirement from teaching. Miss Julia Garnet is a Communist who's never been kissed, so it's something of a surprise to see her falling in love, and to learn of her abounding interest in an angel.
At first glance, this is a Death in Venice/Don't Look Now kind of book. Carlo, the man for whom Julia falls for big time, turns out to be quite an apocryphal
character, in the modern meaning of the word. Thankfully, Harriet wasn't in the habit of wearing lurid red anoraks, and Salley Vickers' new novel, The Instances of
the Number 3 also opens with a death. However, Julia does encounter the twins who are restoring the Chapel-of-the-Plague (which Salley Vickers seems to have invented for the novel), similar to the sort of work carried out by Donald Sutherland's character in Don't Look Now. However, there is the scene where Julia abandons her guidebook by the Reverend Crystal in St. Mark's Basilica (a reference to A Room with a View perhaps?), and this is where she meets Carlo for the first time. St. Mark's Basilica is very beautiful, but as Carlo tells Julia, all the art has been nicked from other cultures and appropriated by the victorious Venetians of past history. One could say that Salley Vickers has gone about doing the same thing (especially with regards to her new novel), yet there is a more apt simile to describe what she is doing here.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lesley West on September 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Miss Garnet has a dry and emotionless life. She vaguely realises this, but is never moved to do anything about it until her friend of many years dies, and she decides to spend time overseas. Her destination of choice is Venice, and there the beauty and history of the place, and the different people she meets, touch her soul and makes her think and re-evaluate everything she has done with her life. Cleverly interwoven with this is the story of Tobias, who is accompanied by an angel as he too ventures on a journey that will also change his life.
This all sounds very deep and meaningful, but it is a lovely, lyrical book, where the central character is charming in her self analysis, regrets and realisations of things lost, and we appreciate the small pleasures that she derives from a beautiful painting, a new lilac dress, and the discovery of new truths from her own research into the story of Tobias and the angel which has so fascinated her. The other characters who populate her journey are equally enchanting, all of whom are not really who they appear to be, but all who help Miss Garnet appreciate what she has in life, as to a degree she does them as well.
If there is one small drawback with the book, it is that it immediately imbues the reader with a great desire to visit Venice, and to gaze upon paintings of angels. But I'm sure I will get over this. I will however, continue to remember this enchanting story, and I recommend it highly. This is a first novel, and I trust that it is the beginning of a great career for a talented and insightful writer.
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