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The Cleaner of Chartres: A Novel Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Length: 305 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Agnès Morel is an enigma. Discovered sleeping on the porch of Chartres cathedral, she has become a fixture there, cleaning the cathedral and tending to the aging priests for the last 20 years. Taking odd jobs about the small town, she has made herself indispensable: organizing Professor Jones’ chaotic papers; posing for Robert Clement, who dreams of painting the perfect Madonna; helping Philippe Nevers care for his abused nephew. But it is her mysterious past that causes the bitter town gossip to begin to suspect and then accuse her of things she did not do. The unwanted scrutiny brings back memories of her past, a past she came to Chartres to escape. Through the viewpoints of the various characters and in flashbacks to her troubled past, the reader learns of Agnès’ depth and strength and the feelings that she so easily arouses in others. 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. --Elizabeth Dickie

Review

“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
 
“There’s a timelessness about The Cleaner of Chartres…Vickers draws on an intimate understanding of human behavior.”—The Bookseller
 
“Vickers, who had an international hit with Miss Garnet’s Angel, writes with a sense of hopeful healing.”—Library Journal
 
“Realism with a subtle fairytale quality….Charming.”—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
 
“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."—Robert McCrum, 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.”—Elizabeth Buchan, 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…Miss Garnet’s Angel…Each character is drawn with skillful precision.”—The Independent (UK)

Praise for Salley Vickers:

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


 

"A heartbreaking novel and, yes, a love story. If you enjoy the work of Marilynne Robinson, Penelope Fitzgerald, James Salter, or Anita Brookner, you should be reading Vickers."—The Washington Post Book World


 

"A smart, haunting exploration of love and loss."—The New York Observer


 

"A former psychologist herself, Vickers brings an erudite precision and an elegant perception to her lyrically poetic testament to the vitality of love and the human capacity to both seek out and run from its ennobling grace."—Booklist


 

“Entertains even as it considers serious questions of sin and redemption, love and loss, what we venture in this life and the reckonings we may face in the great beyond.” —Francine Prose, People


 

“A book to place on the shelf next to Marilynne Robinson’s haunting Housekeeping and Penelope Fitzgerald’s serene The Blue Flower....Harold Bloom once observed that a sense of strangeness in a work of art was one likely sign of greatness. Instances of the Number 3 possesses such an utterly assured, if quiet originality.” —Michael Dirda, Crisis


 

“A testament to the craftiness and generosity of spirit of the author, whom one hopes to hear from much more.” —The Seattle Times


 

“Salley Vickers has a gift for making the most unlikely settings for fiction absolutely compelling....She is a brave writer....Fresh, intriguing, and enlightening.” —The Independent(London)


Product Details

  • File Size: 2064 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0670785679
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (June 27, 2013)
  • Publication Date: June 27, 2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AFPTSKS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,371 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written, thoughtful and engaging book. I enjoyed Miss Garnett's Angel many years ago and tried The Cleaner of Chartres on the strength of it. I was very happy that I had because I enjoyed it very much.

Salley Vickers is a marvellous storyteller and she very subtly creates very believable and recognisable characters, showing their inner lives with gentle penetration and, on the whole, great compassion. I found this aspect of the novel especially involving and her gently-painted psychological insights are what have lingered most strongly with me, and her portraits of aspects and origins of kindness and malice, of decency and selfishness, of humility and self-certainty and so on were very shrewd and delicately done.

Vickers also generates a wonderful sense of place, and the redemptive tale of Agnes, an orphan lost in the world and despised by some but finding her place among people who have come to respect and admire her is both captivating and wise in itself. There are notable similarities to Miss Garnett: the central character is a lonely woman who, without overtly searching, stumbles toward spiritual and personal fulfilment, the central setting is a cathedral where an ancient image is being restored and so on. Nevertheless, it works very well as a tale in its own right and I never felt I was being fobbed off with a re-hash.

You may get a flavour of the style from this: "The sun, shifting in its westward path, was already lighting the South Rose window and smudges of colour, refracted through the glass, were blessing the grey stone of the walls by the scaffolding that concealed the benign Blue Virgin." I found that, and a lot else in the book, extremely evocative and read it all with unalloyed pleasure and I recommend it very warmly - it's a really enjoyable read which will stay with me for a long time.
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Format: Hardcover
I was sad to see this beautiful book end. The author weaves together a tale of the rich history and lore of Chartres and her labyrinth, along with the story of main-character, Agnes. You will celebrate the power of goodness over evil, and the resilience of the human spirit, and you will yearn to visit, or revisit, Chartres. I highly recommend this book!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loved the characters and the insights into the history and artistry of the cathedral and the town. Missed Agnes and Fr Paul especially. Now that's a sign of good writing, isn't it?
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Format: Hardcover
Extended review available on Mina's Bookshelf
It took me a while to get into this story, but once I did, I found it quite interesting and enjoyable. Different, I would say. Elaborate like the facade of a Gothic cathedral, as rich and beautiful as a mosaic in a stained-glass window, The Cleaner of Chartres' opening chapters summoned my attention with an array of colorful characters, dual timeline, and poignant backstories that made a full and beautiful sense when the last piece of the puzzle was laid down in the form of a startling epiphany. The simultaneous introduction of multiple characters, as essential to the story as the central character itself, may initially confuse and distract the reader, but the inhabitants of Chartres will eventually cling to a corner of your heart with their moving humanity, quirkiness, and pitiful dramas. Salley Vickers' novel can better be described as a modern fairy tale, and a dark one at that. Of that form of storytelling, Vickers' novel features the typical plot structure, motifs, and dramatis personae. Written with the grace and sensitivity of an author who obviously has an understanding of human psychology (Vickers is a former university professor of literature and Jungian psychotherapy), this story lacks the 'fantasy' element (in its place the author introduced the 'mystical' and the 'divine') but it features all the archetypal figures populating a traditional folktale: the heroine/victim of an intrigue/spell (Agnès), a villain (Madame Beck), a donor/helper/rescuer (Jean Dupère, the farmer who found her wrapped in a tablecloth on a frigid winter night; Prof.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The pace is gentle. There are no mad dashes or lists of information. Instead we become involved in the details of Agnes' life.The style is more 19th century,so it is surprising to realise that it is contemporary,although very little of modern life appears in the story. It then just comes to a halt as though the writer has lost interest.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great story - was intrigued at how the vents of the woman's life unfolded and very sad when I'd finished
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Format: Hardcover
Agnes Morel is a quiet, gentle soul who arrived at the famous Chartres Cathedral and wound up a steady presence as a cleaner and as an inspiration to many who were daily visitors to the cathedral. There's Abbe Paul who has lost his faith in God after the death of his parents but who begins to see the face of God again in this young faithful cleaner. No, it's not her faith in God that is so moving; it's her constant presence and quiet, gentle support. She seems to know exactly what to say and when to say it - or when to keep silent and just listen or "be" present to the Abbe as he talks and talks and talks.

Then there's the restorer of the cathedral ceilings and walls, Alain Fleury, who is an artist in his own right in some ways as he describes the careful work he does. He find strength and companionship in Agnes whom he can always see from where he works. And there is the Professor whose home is desperately in need of being put in order and the arrogant woman who hires Agnes looking for scandal in the ugliest way possible.

But just as one is unsure where this is going, the author begins to interweave past scenes from Agnes's life, a life of abandonment, torture, predatory attack, and the consequent mental collapse she suffers, told in the most eloquent, heart-rending scenes. Then and only as this past story evolves does one realize how amazing it is that Agnes has come out of this hellhole of darkness to become the saint-like human being she is; let no one believe it was an easy journey and there was certainly no known plan that led her to this point. One may only speculate that somehow the hand of God often appears in the goodness of men and women and in spite of the worst one can imagine in other men and women as well.

The Cleaner of Chartres is an amazing, beautiful, harsh, peaceful, gracious story with such a profoundly sensitive yet real depiction. Quite simply astonishing and highly recommended!
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