In The Cleaner of Chartres Salley Vickers allows us to approach Agnès Morel’s story from two directions: we start with her life in Chartres, where we are given a speedy run through her arrival in the town twenty years ago and how she has ended up cleaning the eponymous cathedral, as well as a range of local residents’ homes.
We’re then taken back in time to her infancy and childhood as an orphan in the care of a community of nuns, until an unplanned pregnancy leads to a mental breakdown and stints in various psychiatric institutions.
These twin narratives allow for a large cast of characters, some sympathetic, others not, and a surprising number of foreign residents. And there is a hint of Chocolat in this novel – the setting in provincial France, a mysterious female protagonist, unspoken thoughts and desires.
Author’s webpage: The Cleaner of Chartres – Salley Vickers