I was inspired to read this novel following a talk given by the author Sally Vickers at Wellington Literary Festival in October 2014. Sally talked about her time as a psychoanalyst and how her travels to France and Italy inspired her writing. It was an interesting talk and as a result I felt encouraged to read one of her novels. Her novel The Cleaner of Chartres was part of the Literary Festival display in my local library.
"There is something very special about Agnès Morel. A quiet presence in the small French town of Chartres, she can be found cleaning the famed medieval cathedral each morning and doing odd jobs for the townspeople. No one knows where she came from or why. Not Abbé Paul, who discovered her one morning twenty years ago, sleeping on the north porch, and not Alain Fleury, the irreverent young restorer who works alongside her each day and whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes and elusive manner. She has transformed each of their lives in her own subtle way, yet no one suspects the dark secret Agnès is hiding.
When an accidental encounter dredges up a series of tragic incidents from Agnès’s youth, the nasty meddling of town gossips threatens to upend the woman’s simple, peaceful life. Her story reveals a terrible loss, a case of mistaken identity, and a cruel and violent act that haunts her past. Agnès wrestles with her own sense of guilt and enduring heartbreak while the citizens piece together the truth about her life."
I really struggled to get into this book, I was just not hooked by the story. The book is only 296 pages, which for me is a short read and for that I was grateful. I found the first 200 pages slow going, and a number of the characters unlikeable, and as such I was not interested in their story. The pace picked up in the final 90 pages, when I did start to enjoy it. In fact I was almost surprised by the slight twist of discovery at the end of the story. Though nothing is confirmed by the author it is left with the reader to interpret the evidence. On a positive note, I did enjoy the interaction between Alain and Agnes, and found their exchanges of knowledge and wisdom endearing.The history behind the architecture of the cathedral was fascinating, and cleverly told through Alain.
I do not like to give up on a book, hence the reason why I continued to read this book to the end, and the story did improve towards the end. I am just grateful though that I borrowed this book from my local library and did not buy it.
I gave this book 2 stars out of 5 on Goodreads where it had an average of 3.7 stars.
To find out more about the book or the author Sally Vickers visit the following links.
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