Paperback review: The Cleaner of Chartres, By Salley Vickers


Fans of Salley Vickers's appealing mix of psychological acuity and religious appreciation will have few complaints here, because this novel traces territory familiar to previous works such as Miss Garnet's Angel or Mr Golightly's Holiday.

Agnes Morel is the woman who arrives from nowhere, belonging to no one, and who makes her living cleaning the cathedral of Chartres. Vickers gently teases out her more disturbing background, as a teenage mother who had to give up her child and who had to receive psychiatric treatment to cope with it, but this is presented almost warmly, through the eyes of a caring young doctor. With the gossip of two old women in the town set to ruin her, combined with her troubled past, Agnes is almost too sympathetic and angelic to be quite true.