The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers


This is my second book by this author; I read The Other Side of You in 2007 so my memory of it is a bit vague. It was engaging but I wrote about some reservations relating to gender matters. I was moved to read this one by Annabel's House of Books' awarding it the book with the Best Sense of Place for 2013. Having loved the town of Chartres as well as the cathedral when we visited in 2010, I found that reason enough and it turns out to have been the case. 

We meet Agnes, the cleaner, in the present time, in Chartres where she has lived for 20 years. We learn about her beginnings in chapters that alternate with ones that occur in the present time. We know we are in "the present time" by certain occasional references, email, for example. Generally I had the feeling we were in a bygone era, as somehow Agnes had been handed over to a convent as a baby and never learned to read.

The fairy tale nature of this story is evident from the discovery of Agnes in a basket as a baby to her two years of bucolic life caring for the dying farmer who had found her to the evil widow trying to discredit her to her deliverance by the Abbe and the cathedral restorer (another cleaner) who loves her.  Fairy tales can be so satisfying.

You can see a hint of the cemetery where I took this photo of the cathedral.



This book is available at the public library and from Amazon.

Sally Vickers, The Cleaner of Chartres, Viking, 2013, 297 pages.





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