Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Cleaner of Chartres

The Cleaner of Chartres was an easy read. Relaxing and calm. I am happy to recommend it.

The writer Salley Vickers has produced several other novels which have done well on the shelves, as well as a volume of short stories. After reading this one, I will hunt around for Mr Golightly's Holiday and Miss Garnet's Angel.
Salley Vickers has done a variety of jobs herself and this obviously contributes to her understanding of and respect for people who are not conventional hero material. Vickers is English and was educated at Cambridge. She now writes full time. Here is her website:

What's the story? Agnes Morel works as a cleaner doing casual work at the cathedral and for private clients. She is good at her job and in demand. Agnes has not had the easiest of lives and bit by bit various episodes are uncovered. Other characters in the novel have unexpected impacts as everyone makes mistakes that seem minor at the time. People come and go through Agnes's life. Obstacles are sometimes overcome and sometimes cast aside.

This photo from Wikipedia shows the labyrinth
that is mentioned in the novel.
Obviously it is huge.
Is Agnes a heroine? No. Everyone in this story is flawed. There are no heroes, only people doing their best, but sometimes making mistakes.

Is this a romance or chiclit? A little bit. There are no diamonds, adventures, murders, thefts, spies, or great love stories. Gentle. Sad in places. There are many threads weaving a tale just a bit bigger than ordinary lives. Agnes does meet a nice man and at the end I felt they would be happy together. This is not the heart of the novel though.

The Cleaner of Chartres is set in a cathedral. Is it full of religion? The cathedral is an interesting setting. There are references to religious and semi-religious practices. Not knowing much about Catholicism actually does not detract much from the heart of the story. I have never been to Europe and it did not seem to matter. I do not have a deep knowledge of Chartres Cathedral. There is a labyrinth that has a leading role in parts of the story, but it is only a device or a metaphor for Life.

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