Miss Garnet's Angel is a voyage of discovery, a novel about Venice but also the rich story of the explosive possibilities of change in all of us at any time. Julia Garnet is a teacher. Just retired, she is left a legacy which she uses by leaving her orderly life and going to live -- in winter -- in an apartment in Venice. Its beauty, its secret ...
Miss Garnet's Angel is a voyage of discovery, a novel about Venice but also the rich story of the explosive possibilities of change in all of us at any time. Julia Garnet is a teacher. Just retired, she is left a legacy which she uses by leaving her orderly life and going to live -- in winter -- in an apartment in Venice. Its beauty, its secret corners and treasures, and its people overwhelm a lifetime of reserve and caution. Above all, she's touched by the all-prevalent spirit of the Angel, Raphael. Twinned with her journey is that of Tobias. The father, growing old and blind, is determined that his son, accompanied by an appropriate companion, should recover the family debt and allow his father to die in peace. The traveller, masquerading as a merchant -- by common legend -- is Raphael. The two stories interweave with parents and landladies, restorers and priests, American tourists and ancient travellers abounding. The result is an enormously satisfying journey of the spirit -- and Julia Garnet is a character to treasure.
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This is the best book I've read all summer. The intimate description of an elderly spinster opening up to sensuality and the metaphysical realm was nuanced and believable, yet the book had a magical quality to it as well.
Sep 10, 2008
Trying too hard to be spiritual?
I decided to read this book on holiday because I had heard its author, Salley Vickers, talking about the way she writes, at a seminar. I found her intriguing and interesting and therefore opened the book in great anticipation.
Unfortunately I felt mildly disappointed by the time I finished the book, which I really didn't want to be, as I had taken to the author, and was hoping it would be a stupendous read. Perhaps that was the trouble, my expectations had been built up unrealistically.
I liked the theme of the book, and the central character, Miss Garnet. There was a very strong sense of place and also of Miss Garnet's growing awareness and spiritual unfolding, but I found some of the other characters unconvincing, especially the 'twins' . The plot was fast - moving and unpredictable, but I found myself becoming a bit irritated by all the references to angels, which I felt became contrived and a bit 'precious'.
I generally like books that have a kind of magical realism like this one, but I thought Salley Vickers was perhaps 'trying too hard' with this element. I would have liked more subtlety. I have known others who rave about Vickers' work so I don't want to be too heavy in my criticism, and I might give her other books a go later ( but not yet.....)
Perhaps this is just a very personal reaction - I wouldn't dissuade others from reading this book but think it merits 'robust discussion' - eg in a book club or similar.
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