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The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

(56 Posts)
GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 20-Jun-13 16:21:13

Our June book club novel is The Cleaner of Chartres by bestselling author Salley Vickers.

What is the secret of the young woman who cleans the cathedral every morning and whose life has become entwined with so many others in Chartres?

Salley will be dong a Q&A for us. So, please - especially if you got one of the free books - ask her a question by Monday 8 July.

gardener Sun 30-Jun-13 20:45:52

Many thanks for the book. I really enjoyed it - especially the beautiful descriptions of Chartres Cathedral. There are so many interesting people in the novel which made the reading of the book so absorbing.
I would like to ask:-
Where did you get your first idea for the book....
a) Did you choose the cathedral setting first?
b) or was the character of Agnes in your mind ?
c) or did you start with a plan of the storyline ?

Galen Sun 30-Jun-13 21:46:13

I've only just got mine, as I only came back today!
Looking forward to reading it! Thanks!

Milly Sun 30-Jun-13 22:51:48

I have been reading all day as wanted to find out what happened to poor
Agnes. A lovely book but not as good as my favourite of all time "Miss
Garnet's Angel" (and while I am on the subject of Salley Vickers books, Mr. Golightly had me confused - was he God?)

Anyway back to Chartres - I also thought at first that it was set in the past, and came up with a jolt when very modern things were mentioned.

I am very "thick" (in brain as well as body)
and getting thicker as the years pile on - are we to believe that horrid
Madame Beck was Agnes mother? Surely not as Agnes was, I thought,
of mixed parentage, or maybe the old hypocrite had a fling with a
handsome Arabian gentleman - or am I missing something - was Mr. Beck
the father.

I am sure other Gransnetters will put me right.

merlotgran Sun 30-Jun-13 23:09:38

There's a double twist right at the end, Milly. Re-read the bit about the restaurant and the waitress.

Don't want to say too much in case others haven't finished it yet.

lucyinthesky Tue 02-Jul-13 09:39:14

Milly - Miss Garnet's Angel is on my top ten list and The Cleaner of Chartres reminds me of it, although with more characters.

I enjoyed the book very much and thanks for sending it to me. It was a lovely surprise to receive it smile

I also enjoyed the description and history of the cathedral and Salley's well written characterisations although I got confused with the age that Agnes is supposed to be in the present day. Each section is headed with where action took place and for me it would have helped greatly if dates had been used as well.

Other than that I would like to ask Salley whether the Cathedral was the starting point when she got the idea for the novel (I feel sure she must have visited it!) or was it a character led idea?

BTW The bad language that another reader has mentioned seems to me to be appropriate for the character and time. The F word is used constantly in general conversation now whether we like it or not. I remember when 'bloody' was considered beyond the pale!

NannyPam Tue 02-Jul-13 11:43:45

Many thanks for this book GN I really enjoyed it and will look out for Salley's
other books.
I would like to ask how Salley went about writing a book that switches between the current story and the story of what happened in the past as this book does so that it all comes together so well? Do you have an outline plan in the beginning and write to that or ...........?

Bez Tue 02-Jul-13 12:34:25

So many good reports - I have just bought it for my kindle.

EastEndGranny Tue 02-Jul-13 17:32:10

I am really enjoying reading ' the Cleaner of Chartres' but haven't quite finished it yet. I like the way it moves between different times. Did you spend a lot of time in Chartres before writing your book? What made you want to write about this area in France?

Galen Tue 02-Jul-13 18:29:44

I'm enjoying it very much! I only got it yesterday as I was on holiday!

emmasnan Tue 02-Jul-13 19:44:23

Thank you for the book. Only just been able to start mine, enjoying it so far.

chrissy5061 Fri 05-Jul-13 09:06:05

Thanks Gransnet for a lovely book. I had a book to finish when I received it, so have only just started it. I really thought that I wasn't going to like it at first, boy how wrong I was, I am now about half way through but I,m really gripped,I shall tell my friends & family about it. So well written, you cannot wait to turn a page. Thank you again for a really great read. I really must try to visit Chartres, it now is on the list of things to do.

Venus Fri 05-Jul-13 11:41:25

I've just finished reading the book, and enjoyed it immensely. Although I found out, as I read, that the story wasn't set in the past, it did have that feel about it.

The book intimated who Agnes's parents were. Would you please clarify this and why the waitress, if she was the mother, didn't keep her as a baby?

psg1968 Sun 07-Jul-13 10:03:18

Finished the book yesterday in the sunshine!!
Wasn't sure whether this was my kind of book to start with However I Thoroughly enjoyed this book the characters were colourful and believable and the story was interesting and kept my attention throughout. Without giving too much away I thought the ending was apt.
Will be recommending this book to others!

Grannyknot Sun 07-Jul-13 22:17:05


What waitress!? Note to self - stop reading a chapter before you nod off at night, instead of persevering to the end of it. (Also just finished reading the book but will now have to go back).

extremesport Tue 09-Jul-13 11:09:01

In what way does your training as a psychoanalyst affect your writing?

granIT Tue 09-Jul-13 11:13:35

It is quite brave to write about Christianity and redemption nowadays. Were you worried that they were old-fashioned subjects and would put off reviewers and publishers, who are always looking for new things?

closetgran Tue 09-Jul-13 11:15:55

Some readers have complained that Agnes is quite a difficult character to get to grips with - that she's too passive and changeable to fix onto. Is that fair, do you think? Do you understand what they're getting at?

batgran Tue 09-Jul-13 11:18:07

I wanted to pick up on extremesport's point. I am interested in whether you think all novels nowadays are influenced by psychoanalytic theory? You would think they must be - it's difficult to imagine purely evil or purely anything characters in a modern novel: everything has to be explained by the past.

getmehrt Tue 09-Jul-13 11:19:40

I loved the sense of place in the book. Chartres comes across powerfully as a sacred place. I wondered why you think some places become sacred?

crosspatch Tue 09-Jul-13 11:21:52

The plot is quite labyrinthine. Given that a labyrinth features in the story, was this a deliberate choice? (Assume it was!) If so, what is it a metaphor for?

hopefulgran Tue 09-Jul-13 11:24:14

I really enjoyed the book but I found the character of Mme Beck rather unconvincing. Do you know of people who are that relentlessly malicious? I found her a rather flat character because I felt I always knew what she was going to do next!

Galen Tue 09-Jul-13 19:46:35

Yes I have!
I found it a very unusual book. Not at all what I normally read at all.
However, having said that, I found it very thoughtfully written and thought provoking.
Thank you for a very good read indeed. In fact, the best this year.
(I normally read 2-3 books a week)

wallers5 Thu 11-Jul-13 17:50:28

Thank you for another lovely book. The cover was very enticing and I enjoyed a slightly unusual book. The descriptions of the Cathedral make me want to visit it. It certainly was very different and isn't this what book club books are about.

ElliMary Thu 11-Jul-13 19:32:07

Wasn't it yet another book about a young woman who has several men interested in her mainly because she was pretty, polite and non-threatening? It was a good move for the writer to put her in a famous cathedral otherwise it would have been a very ordinary novel.

Chartres is adequately described in any good guide book on France.

cookiemonster66 Tue 16-Jul-13 22:27:55

I enjoyed the book although its not the genre I would usually go for. Really liked the way the book takes you through the passage of her eventful life and how she ends up in Chatres! Thanks for the book!