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THE CLEANER OF CHARTRES by Salley Vickers

THE CLEANER OF CHARTRES

By Salley Vickers

Pub Date: June 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-670-78567-4
Publisher: Viking

Enigmatic Agnès Morel provokes intense responses in the people around her, but is she an innocent, a savant or a violent criminal?

A foundling whose own illegitimate baby was removed from her at birth, Agnès is a character hung about with sadness, mystery and suppressed emotion. In British novelist Vickers’ (Dancing Backwards, 2010, etc.) accomplished moral fable set in the French cathedral city of Chartres, Agnès is a blank canvas on whom others inscribe their own kind or less generous behavior. Abbé Paul treats her with concerned warmth; Professor Jones detects her illiteracy and teaches her to read; but malicious widow Madame Beck works busily to vilify her reputation. Twenty years earlier, before arriving penniless in Chartres, Agnès had spent time in a secure psychiatric hospital, suspected of attacking the nanny of an adopted baby which Agnès perhaps thought was her own lost child. Now, with her striking looks, quiet demeanor and high reputation as a reliable worker, Agnès has friends and a home. But the unanswered questions about her past and her silence are about to resurface unpleasantly. Sometimes whimsical, other times dryly witty, Vickers' story features simple characters and an uncomplicated, even predictable storyline while exploring deeper themes of parenting, sin and guilt before reaching a sweet, neat conclusion.

A skillful miniature psychodrama delivered with humor and knowing restraint.