There is something special about the ancient cathedral of Chartres, with its mismatched spires, astonishing stained glass and strange labyrinth. And there is something special too about Agnes Morel, the mysterious woman who is to be found cleaning it each morning.
No one quite knows where she came from - not the diffident Abbe Paul, who discovered her one morning twenty years ago, sleeping in the north porch; nor lonely Professor Jones, whose chaotic existence she helps to organise; nor Philippe Nevers, whose neurotic sister and newborn child she cares for; nor even the irreverent young restorer, Alain Fleury, who works alongside her each day and whose attention she catches with her tawny eyes, her colourful clothes and elusive manner. And yet everyone she encounters would surely agree that she is subtly transforming their lives, even if they couldn't quite say how.
But with a chance meeting in the cathedral one day, the spectre of Agnes' past returns, provoking malicious rumours from the prejudiced Madame Beck and her gossipy companion Madame Picot. As the hearsay grows uglier, Agnes is forced to confront her history, and the mystery of her origins finally unfolds.
The Cleaner of Chartres is a compelling story of darkness and light; of traumatic loss and second chances. Told with a sparkling wit and captivating charm, but infused throughout with deeper truths, it speaks of the power of love and mercy to transform the tragedies of the past.
Salley Vickers is the author of many acclaimed novels including the best-selling Miss Garnet's Angel, Mr Golightly's Holiday, The Other Side of You and The Cleaner of Chartres (Viking 2012) and two short story collections, the latest The Boy Who Could See Death (Viking 2015). She has worked as a cleaner, a dancer, a teacher of children with special needs, a university lecturer and a psychoanalyst. She now writes and lectures full time. Find out more at www.salleyvickers.com or @SalleyVickers.