Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Cleaner of Chartres - Salley Vickers

  The publishers seem to have changed the cover of this too many times in the two years since it was published, this appears to be a newer one, so have chosen it against the one shown as current on Amazon.  Anyway, another book passed on to me, and having read two others of Sally Vickers', I was looking forward to this one, and indeed, really enjoyed it, polishing it off in one day!
Agnes Morel, a foundling named after a) a saint, and b) the finder's favourite food, spends her early life in the care of nuns after being found, in a basket, in an orchard by a batchelor farmer.  A series of mishaps in her early life colour her later life, and at around age twenty she finds herself sleeping rough on the steps of Chartres Cathedral.  It is not long before she finds a niche in the town of Chartres, cleaning the floor of the cathedral, cleaning other people's homes, nude modeling for a local artist, live-in caring for an elderly lady and all the while keeping her secrets to herself.  Her early life has held at least two tragedies, and we, the readers, get to hear about them not from her lips but from others.  Several of the characters in this short and bitter-sweet read have things in their own past they do not care to discuss with others, but we will find out about them.  Loved the style of this novel, with the past and the present in alternate chapters, and liked the characterisation too, with Agnes being present throughout, but rather vaguely described at first, gaining more colour and character as the story progresses.