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 20 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’ 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.
©2013 Salley Vickers (P)2013 Blackstone Audio
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
Sally Vickers used to be a psychoanalyst, and her past profession lends a depth to her characters, and an interesting air to her books.
She usually has interesting references to some cultural aspect as well. In The Other Side of You it was painting. In this book, the references to Greek mythology were interesting because they were symbolic of the situations in the book and of life in general. The story of Theseus and the Minotaur was one example. When Agnés finally confesses what she had done as a young girl, her friend Alain says, “The minotaur is dead!” I thought that was great, but then I love symbolism. Agnés’ secret had been trapped like the evil Minotaur, and now it was released - rendered powerless. Her life had expanded and healed a lot already, but now she was truly free.
I found the writing good, the cultural and psychoanalytic aspects interesting, but overall the story was a bit underwhelming. I enjoyed The Other Side of You much more.
Tell us about yourself!
The story is about the tragic background of the "Cleaner of Chartres." From her start as a foundling to the, finally, normal ending, the book weaves a sad tale of the life of this woman. There were good people watching over her, but there were also many evils done to her. Somehow she endures and becomes a functional, if flawed, adult.
For some reason I had a difficulty with the time changes between the past(s) and present(s) necessary for the story. I would eventually pick up on a time clue and realize that I hadn't made the shift to the current narrative. This hasn't been a problem in other books; perhaps more subtle than I have encountered before.
Finally, a decent read. However, I wouldn't reread or pick another book by this author.
The narration is very good.
I loved nearly everything about this novel. Each character is finely drawn and the slow pace of the plot with a converging timeline draws out the tension. The narrator's pacing is flawless. When I could feel the novel drawing to a close, I became sad for it to end. While I felt the ending was weak, almost as if the author didn't know how to close the novel, it didn't detract from my enjoyment. Highly recommended.
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