A beautiful, beguiling novel from the bestselling author of The Librarian and Grandmothers
'A lovely book . . . wise at heart and filled with colourful characters' Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat
A compelling story of darkness and light, of traumatic loss and second chances, The Cleaner of Chartres tells of the mysterious and elusive Agnes Morel whose little acts of kindness around a rural French cathedral touch the lives of others with consequences both good and ill. But when her tragic past is exposed, Agnes must face up to the truth of her origins.
'Salley Vickers sees with a clear eye and writes with a light hand and she knows how the world works. She's a presence worth cherishing' Philip Pullman
'A rich weave of loss and redemption . . . magic and mystery' Observer, Book of the Year
Drawn by its famous labyrinth, Agn s Morel has made a life in Chartres cleaning for the cathedral; its dean, Abb Paul; and a variety of townspeople, who are connected by gossip, much of it circulated by the malicious Madame Beck. Vickers tells Agn s's story in chapters that alternate between her current life and her earlier travails: raised by nuns after having been abandoned, she gets pregnant under mysterious circumstances, is forced to give up the baby, then has a breakdown. As in her bestselling Miss Garnet's Angel, Vickers leavens her realism with a subtle fairytale quality and a version of Christianity in which doctrine is less important than kindness or its absence, and in which the Devil exists, "but only in people's minds. That is his power." Things seem dark when Agn s's past collides with her present, but actually her luck may be changing. She learns to read, meets a sexy restorer, and, while ministering in simple but meaningful ways to some of her fellow townspeople, winds her way back to the center of her difficult life and out the other side. 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.