Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"The author has presented us here with a thing of true beauty: a portrait of the world placed in an antique frame." ~Eric B.
There is something very special about Agnès Morel. A quiet presence in the small French town of Chartres, she can usually be found cleaning the famed medieval cathedral or doing odd jobs for the townspeople. No one knows where she came from or why. Not diffident Abbé Paul, nor lonely Professor Jones, nor even Alain Fleury, whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes. She has transformed all their lives in her own subtle way, yet no one suspects the dark secret Agnès is hiding.

Then an accidental encounter dredges up the specter of her past, and the nasty meddling of town gossips forces Agnès to confront her tragic history and the violent act that haunts it.

Eric B. says:
"I finally got around to this book. I’ve been casting guilty glances at it for several months now, and I’m kicking myself for the unnecessary delay. I remember vividly the author’s previous book Miss Garnet’s Angel which was published many years ago and resurrected in trade paperback for the hardcover issue of this one, a wise decision. Readers of “Angel” will not be disappointed and those who haven’t read it will surely want to seek it out now.

Agnes Morel, a foundling raised by nuns, impregnated by an unknown and brutal stranger, deprived of her child due to her “incompetent” status as judged by the sisterhood and subject to self-inflicted wounding and a tragic miscommunication of information regarding her child, finds herself in a restricted facility for the criminally insane. Hers is not a happy life, surely. She is rescued by a kind-hearted and slightly dithery psychologist who places her with the man who found her nestled in a basket in the midst of wild woods and who becomes her real father. Once more, sadness inflicts itself upon poor Agnes: her beloved foster parent dies, after having been lovingly looked after for some years by the simple, loving, unassuming young woman.

Using a picture given her by her helpful medical savior, she travels to Chartres and is found asleep, in her father’s coat in a niche outside the famous cathedral there. She manages, one way or another to make ends meet, becomes the cleaner for the sacred building, meets a few friends, establishes herself as a useful and humbly helpful helpmate to a number of the denizensof the city and seems set, perhaps on the path to some much-deserved happiness. But her odd and muddy past re-emerges and, sparked by an erroneous and mean-spirited suspicion of thievery and eventually, greater imagined crimes seems fit to ruin her small joys.

The author has presented us here with a thing of true beauty: a portrait of the world placed in an antique frame. Love, joy, hate, jealousy, trust, betrayal, misguided piety, pure malice and redemption are all represented here in both their ugliness and glory. This is a lovely read, and one which every reader should seek."

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